Defining the Kingdom: Luke 13:18-19 (Sermon)


How do we define the kingdom of God? That is hard. Let’s start with some things that are easier to define. 

Q: How do you define water? 

A: Wet. H2O. Liquid.  

Q: How do you define air? 

A: Hot, cold. Humid, dry. Dead, thin. Suppose you are talking about teenagers’ shoes: stinky.

Q: How about America? 

A: British-American rock band from the ’70s. Best known for songs “A Horse With No Name” and “You Can Do Magic.” 

Q: That is not what I meant. How do you define the United States of America? 

A: Country that came into existence in 1776. It has a flag with fifty stars in the upper left corner surrounded by a blue background and thirteen red and white stripes representing the thirteen original colonies. The official language is English. It is on the continent of North America, sharing borders with Canada and Mexico. The capital is DC. The country has the third largest population and land size. 

Q: How do we define the kingdom of God? What would you say? 

A: That is tough. Jesus raised the question. 

“What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it?” (Luke 13:18, ESV). 


This is important as we consider advancing God’s kingdom through missionary work and global partnerships. Every year we take pledges during the month of May to help spread the good news. People commit resources over and above their regular giving to support “kingdom work.” Together, we help more than we can apart. We help:


  • Michigan Migrant Ministries, 

  • Center Lake Bible Camp, 

  • Converge Worldwide, 

  • Converge Church Planting,

  • IREF’s work in India

  • Jeff’s work with Word Partners in Central Asia, 

  • Jonathan Swift’s work in the Middle East, 

  • Gil Zinke’s work in Ethiopia, 

  • Mike Bowden’s work with TEAM

  • We support people like John Mehn as he furthers church planting in Asia, 

  • Mitchell Wimbush, as he maps languages for Wycliffe Bible Translators, 

  • Sarah Hernandez and her husband work in South Texas, 

  • And Justin and Emily Vanderark’s work as they provide support to To Every Tribe, training people to reach the unreached. 

We do that and more.


Last year, you committed $135,000 towards missions. That was a record and extraordinary. Thank you for your generosity. On top of that, some of you gave to missions outside of our joint efforts. Thank you. And, some of you gave in other ways. You served, and you prayed. Those are not insignificant. Jesus commanded his disciples to pray. We just heard of the importance of praying for the Lord of the Harvest to send out his workers. Thank you for your prayers. We are hoping, praying, and striving to bring as many people with us as we can into God’s kingdom by God’s grace through his Spirit. I think evidence of God’s answered prayers is that in the last few weeks, one person has approached me about getting baptized, and a couple of people are seeking to become members of our church. Not that people always pursue either of those for the right reasons, but I think they are. God is on the move inviting people into this community of faith in various ways. 


So, back to defining the kingdom. If you are taking notes, here are four guiding points: 


  1. The King of the Kingdom, 

  2. The Character of the Kingdom, 

  3. The Community of the Kingdom, 

  4. And the Commission of the Kingdom.

Let me say those again. 

  1. The King of the Kingdom, 

  2. The Character of the Kingdom, 

  3. The Community of the Kingdom, 

  4. And the Commission of the Kingdom.


Let’s talk first about the king. Kingdoms have kings. So, who is he? God, right? We see divine kingship from Genesis to Revelation. God is greater than the kings of Moab, Heshbon, Sidon, and Egypt. 


You may have seen the coronation of King Charles two weeks ago. He became the king and head of state of over fourteen separate nations. Another name one might give him is sovereign. He is a sovereign. What does that mean? The Oxford Dictionary says that sovereign means one has supreme or ultimate authority. And God certainly has that, not over fourteen nations but them all. 


  • He creates out of nothing. In comparison, our inventors build on what is. 

  • He can predict the future because he knows everything. In comparison, our best prognosticators are guessing. 

  • He is the judge and judges justly. In comparison, even the best judges make mistakes. They don’t know the heart or head.  

  • He is in control. He commands the water to move, and it moves. He controls angels, men, women, and children. He orchestrates bacteria and viruses to disappear, and he can make quail and mysterious bread appear in a pinch. In comparison, we struggle to control what is in front of us and in us. 

God is the king qualitatively greater than any other. 


As we move through the Bible, the people of God didn’t always trust this. They spoke to the prophet Samuel and demanded a king like other nations. Samuel prayed to Lord: 


And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.” (1 Samuel 8:7, ESV)

God was their king, and that was not enough. So, God gave them what they asked, and Saul became their king. But, unfortunately, he strayed from God’s ways. He cut corners. He didn’t obey. Thus, God replaced him with another: David. David knew his place. He wrote in Psalm 22:

Kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28, ESV).

Even with David as king, God was the king over him. 


Psalm 47 is a song of praise to God. It says, 

Clap your hands, all peoples! 

      Shout to God with loud songs of joy! [Why?]

  For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared, 

      a great king over all the earth. 

  He subdued peoples under us, 

      and nations under our feet. 

  He chose our heritage for us, 

      the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah 

God has gone up with a shout, 

      the LORD with the sound of a trumpet. 

Sing praises to God, sing praises! 

      Sing praises to our King, sing praises! 

For God is the King of all the earth; 

      sing praises with a psalm! 

God reigns over the nations; 

      God sits on his holy throne. (Ps 47:1–8, ESV, Italics mine)

God is the king overall. He is worthy of awe and worship. 


Over the years, God raised prophets to remind God’s people of what is true, right, and good. He reminded them of their place and his. Why? Because they, like us, forgot. The prophet Malachi, for example, wrote some really hard words as reminder: 

“Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished” (Malachi 1:14, ESV). 

At the time, God’s people were saying they were going to give God one thing, and then giving the bad portion of their wealth. They were going through the motions, but really not worshiping God. God saw that. He said through the voice of Malachi to these people why he cursed them:

“For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations (Malachi 1:14, ESV).”

The people were trusting in their wealth not in God. They weren’t respecting God. God is the king and deserves honor and trust. If we love him, we will honor him.  


However, who of us has not cut corners, doubted, or failed to love God the way we should? Who of us has obeyed God 100 percent? I have failed. Have you? I am guilty and ashamed apart from God’s mercy and grace. That is why God sent another king to come and offer a remedy for our guilt and shame. According to another prophet, Nathan, that king would descend from the line of David (2 Samuel 7). The prophet Daniel predicted a future king as well who was under God. 

I saw in the night visions, 

                  and behold, with the clouds of heaven 

      there came one like a son of man

                  and he came to the Ancient of Days [Which was a name for God]

      and was presented before him. 

And to him was given dominion 

      and glory and a kingdom

                  that all peoples, nations, and languages 

      should serve him; 

                  his dominion is an everlasting dominion, 

      which shall not pass away, 

                  and his kingdom one 

      that shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13–14, ESV)

This future king would be a Son of Man. The prophet Isaiah says one would come to take away the sin of God’s people. In the last book of the Bible, we see this king, Son of Man, and savior, was Jesus. 

“They [the enemies of God] will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14, ESV).

Revelation goes on. 

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:11–16, ESV)

I say this is Jesus because he is the “Lamb of God,” the “Word of God”, and “the King of kings and Lord of lords.” And as king, he executes the work of the Almighty God. Paul connects God the king and Jesus the king, writing in Philippians that one day every knee will bow and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10). Both God Almighty and Jesus are kings according to the Bible. The Bible describes Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father who sits on a throne. We believe that they are two persons-in-one Godhead. If that is confusing, you are not alone. We bump into mystery as we read the Bible and talk about God. Why? Because God is not like us. He is beyond us and our imagination and explanations will fall short. But we know this to be true. What the Bible says is right and good. And God king of the kingdom.   


This brings me to my second point, what is the character of the kingdom? What are the boundaries of the kingdom? 

Paul wrote, 

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17, ESV). 

The kingdom of God conforms to God’s will. Is it a way, but it is also a place. Jesus prayed that God’s kingdom would show up on earth as it is in heaven. The kingdom of God is a place and state of conformity to God’s will (Matthew 6:9). 


Not only that, it is everlasting. It will never fall and will always exist. However, God’s kingdom is not static. What I mean by that is that it is on the move. God created the world with the freedom to rebel against his rule and reign. But God will conclude this season in judgment one day. His kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus will get his prayer answered in the affirmative.  


When will that be? John the Baptist said: 

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2, ESV). 

Jesus said that too. 


Do we have any more indication about the timing in the Bible? I want to be ready for that day. Jesus told us in Matthew 24. 

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:13–14, ESV).

When the whole world hears the gospel of the kingdom, then the end will come. So, what is the character of the kingdom? It is moral, spiritual, and physical. It has always existed and is on the move. 


However, in another sense, Jesus said.  

“The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Luke 17:2021, ESV)

There is a sense that Jesus has brought the kingdom to us now. 


Bible scholar George Ladd talked about the already but not yet reality of the kingdom. Jesus ushered in a new season in history. The distance between God and us is unraveling through Jesus’s life, death, resurrection. The kingdom of God is here in one sense, and not in another. Time is marching us moment by moment toward God’s kingdom appearing on earth as it is in heaven. 


If we kept reading Luke 13, Jesus answered his questions about the kingdom. He said:

What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches. (Luke 13:19, ESV)

Then in verse 20, he asked a similar question and answered it. 

“To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened” (Luke 13:20–21, ESV). 

These little stories are parables. The kingdom of God starts small but becomes a thing of refuge and significance. Like yeast, it is tiny and helps bread be big and full and good. 


We can see parallels in 

  • Jesus called a few disciples, 

  • His ministry to an oppressed tiny nation, 

  • And his life: lived in obscurity and cut short after three years. 

Yet, his short life, ministry, and calling had historical and eternal results. The good news of the kingdom is not something flashy and flamboyant. It is not dynamite that blows things up or pomp and circumstance. Jesus was fulfilling the Old Testament’s promises. He was restoring the union between God and humanity. He healed the broken, cast out demons, and raised the dead. Justice was on its way from heaven to earth. In our hearts, we long for justice. We long for peace. We long for help. We long for the Garden of Eden. God is vanquishing evil and forgiving sin through Jesus. And peace, mercy, grace, and love are fast approaching. The presence of God is coming to rest on earth. This is the gospel of the kingdom of God through the person and work of Jesus, a kingdom that is spiritual, physical, here in part, and on the move.  


So we have: 

  1. The King of the Kingdom, 

  2. The Character of the Kingdom 

  3. Community of the Kingdom 

Let’s talk about the community of God’s people. In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus told us that the kingdom would be exclusive.  

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21–23, ESV).

So not everyone will enter this kingdom. That is scary. How does one enter? Jesus said, 

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, ESV). 

Is seeing the same as the entrance? Well, Jesus went on to say? 

“Whoever believes in him [the Son of Man] may have eternal life. ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’ ” (John 3:1416, ESV).

We access the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus, his Son. Therefore, entering this community is not by skin color, education, age, sex, wealth, good looks, or good works. It is solely, and exclusively, founded on faith in Jesus. But this discrimination is pretty inclusive; all one has to do is believe.   


What are the benefits of this kingdom? What is the good news of the kingdom? The Apostle Paul wrote something to that effect to a church in Colossae: 

The Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:12–14, ESV, Italics mine)

We belong to a community more fantastic than any clique or club by faith in Jesus’s death and resurrection on our behalf. 

  • We are part of the family of God, 

  • Delivered from the power of the devil, 

  • Redeemed by Jesus’s body and blood, 

  • And forgiven of all our sins. 

That is good news. Isn’t it? 


So brothers and sisters, if your troubles, trials, difficulties, and disappointments have got you down, look no further than the gospel of the kingdom of God. The God-man took on flesh to become one of us so we might enjoy being one with him forever. We have his Spirit. We are not alone. The kingdom of God is here. And one day Jesus will come back and reign supreme, and evil will be no more. And we are one day closer to that day. Can I get an Amen? 


We have talked about 

  1. The King of the Kingdom, 

  2. The Character of the Kingdom 

  3. The Community of the Kingdom. 

  4. Let’s conclude with the Commission of the Kingdom

What is that commission? What is the charge, the call, the invitation for us? God invites us not to religion, magic, or superstition. It is an invitation to relationship with him and each other. We long for satisfaction, joy, comfort, rest, and fulfillment. God gives us this and so much more by grace in Jesus’s work. God is loving, good, and powerful. Last week Gary Rhormayer reminded us how we can declare this good news of the kingdom. Five simple words: 

God, Sin, Jesus, Faith, and Discipleship.

That is a memorable way of talking about the good news. God invites us to share. 

God made this world, you and I. He loves us. He wants a relationship with us.  

Yet, we sinned and went our own way. 

Jesus died to pay for those sins. 

Therefore, we must put our faith in him as our substitute and turn from our sin and rebellion. 

And if we believe, then we follow him with our lives as disciples. 

Let us consider the definition of the kingdom. Why has God given us this information? A verse hung with me in high school: “To whom much is given, much is required.” You and I have been entrusted by God with the good news. How might we steward this knowledge? 


As we conclude, know this: You exist for a purpose. God cares about you. He cares about you so much that he sent Jesus. He cares about you so much that he gave you today. He loves you. 


We have a graduate in our house. Our first. Some of you have graduates in your homes or families and others have weddings this summer. That is exciting. Those of us who do, want to share the joy of accomplishment and new beginnings. We make cards and have parties. We celebrate this good news. In the same way, how might we share the good news of the kingdom of God? You have more access to the king, than if you were invited into King Charles inner circle or even family. You have extraordinary benefits that no other person could obtain for you. No one can take them away from you. In fact, Jesus says that you followers of him are the light of the world. As we conclude, let’s pause to consider what might it look like to follow Jesus this week as the kingdom advances day by day. 

Let’s Pray  

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