“The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power…”
The text above is part of a very important Psalm. In fact, Psalm 110 is the most quoted Psalm in the entire New Testament. Thus it formed a crucial part of the early church’s message: the rule and reign of Christ.
Jesus is many things to His church but He is no less a King than He is anything else. And if Christ is King of His church this has implications for the world in which the church resides.
“The Lord sends out the rod of His strength out of Zion.” It is (primarily) through His church that the Lord reigns: WCF 25.2 The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.
So wherever the church is, there is Christ’s kingdom. This is clear from the Great Commission since Jesus’ authority is asserted through an international, discipleship program (Matthew 28:18-20). This program is not just for individuals but people. We must not only acknowledge that Christ’s power is demonstrated in the gospel but also adhere to the conviction that this is a kingly power, and not just a redeeming power. Or, conversely, the power of redemption is the power of the King (Colossians 1:13-14 & 2:14-15).
Indeed, the prince of the kings of the earth, Jesus, has established His body, His kingdom presence in this world. Though not ‘of the world’ in the sense of originating it, nor coequal with the nations of the world, the King is reigning here, on this earth. How could it not be so? The Father made all things through Christ (John 1:13 & Colossians 1:16) and is bringing all things into submission to Him again. The world and its nations are to willingly serve Him.
As a result this will bring the church into conflict with the world. How could it not be so? “rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.” The world is at conflict with the King; they have rejected His reign. They are rebellious subjects (subject by the natural relationship between the Creator and His creatures they must also be subject to His appointed monarch). Only the King’s power can release those who are in bondage to sin and the death to the safety and security of the kingdom. With angry hearts, the world looks on in envy. Not wanting to share in the redemption for the sake of the temporal payment of sin, they turn their attention to the Body of Christ and derisively attack, slander and humiliate the citizens of the kingdom. So here we have a warning to the enemies of the Bride.
That is, the message of the church to the world is not merely that of love and faith, good works and neighborly affection nor only that of justification by faith and eternal redemption but a King whose reign is eternal. Yes, this is even to say that His reign threatens the very fabric of worldly kingdoms & their order (see Daniel 2:31ff.). For the church to claim less than that is not humility in the face of opposition but hubris: the hubris of a people who themselves have rejected Christ’s total kingship and are ashamed of His rule.
So let the world hear the reign of Christ in the message of the church and let the church live for the king: “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” Here Christ’s kingly redemption is seen in all of its glory. Note that justification by faith is hard to see. Though we have baptism and the Lord’s Supper, these are not converting ordinances and, as such, mainly represent Christ’s mercy to the appropriate recipients. Even the gospel proclamation, central and crucial as it is to the church’s mission and message, are mere words to the hardened heart.
But the willingness of the church to give Him service in light of the world’s opposition, yes even including our own (see Romans 7:14ff.), is a testimony to the King’s reign. Dedicating ourselves to His cause is the tangible evidence of our justification. Sanctification is one of the essential fruits of redemption because it is promised to us in Christ (John 15:1ff. & 1 Corinthians 1:30). More obedience or even the mere desire for it, is not legalism: it is a taste of the kingdom itself and an announcement of the King’s redemptive presence in the midst of a sinful and disobedient world.
Yet, some say, how can imperfect works presage the holy One of God? Only by His power and appointment. So instead of wringing our hands wondering how a holy God can accept our good works (though essential to understanding our salvation in Christ), we ought to redeem the time by praying for an outpouring of the Spirit to aid us in this, our royal labour.
Let the church then proclaim the King and be the king’s people. And let the world tremble, as it once did, at the presence of the King and His kingdom.
1. 1 Corinthians 1:2, 12:12-13; Psalm 2:8; Revelation 7:9; Romans 15:9-12.
2. 1 Corinthians 7:14; Acts 2:39; Ezekiel 16:20-21; Romans 11:16; Genesis 3:15; 17:7.
3. Matthew 13:47; Isaiah 9:7.
4. Ephesians 2:19.
5. Ephesians 3:15; Acts 2:47.