Most Christians cannot appreciate differences between gospels of God’s Kingdom and personal salvation, though careful analysis reveals it. Self-centredness has got limitations on human survival objectives. When pursuing a lifestyle that protects self, survival challenges remain with that person, as other people’s survival impacts on one’s own. Focus on personal salvation causes failure to appreciate that other people’s salvation, or lack of it, impacts one’s own.
Starvation in an area affects everyone, including the careful ones, having stocked sufficient provisions only for themselves. The self-sufficient ones become exposed, even though having been prudent by stocking for their future needs. Their provisions become diluted to insufficiency when flooded by a sea of starving people, desiring to be considered for sharing. The starving people may actually conspire to murder the self-sufficient people, for their food!
The Nation of Israel was offered deliverance into Canaan, with favourable blessings, on condition of keeping God’s Laws. Such blessings could not last. They failed to maintain the stipulations of the covenant. Their story ends by reverting to slavery.
The relapse was caused by influence from other nations. Israelites’ deliverance had been crafted on self-centred philosophy, being for them and their descendants, on condition that they kept God’s laws. This did not regard other nations’ idolatrous circumstances. For illustration, in Malachi God reminds a people having obviously lost the significance of one of their erstwhile customs, enshrined in the covenant:
“Bring ye all tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it…And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 3:10-12 KJV).
This scripture confirms promised legendary blessings––provisions pointing at personal salvation. This principle is not necessarily in agreement with God’s Kingdom. The Israelites had then moved away from those statutes, because of influence by idolatrous nations in their neighbourhood. The covenant had not encompassed the surrounding nations.
It is disheartening when most clerical leaders passionately quote this scripture without regarding differences between Old and New Covenants. The prophecy was intended for the Israelites (vs. 12), not universal Christians––expected to be altruistic in viewpoint.
“The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it” (Luke 16:16 KJV). The New Covenant, which holds the crux of the new civilization, superseded the Old.
Legally, one cannot quote from a superseded statutory instrument without getting entangled, when dealing with the current. Jesus brought a new, but different covenant. While the Old required Law-keeping, the New requires the adoption of Jesus’ faith, discovered when choosing humility ahead of pride.
The person heeding instruction to pay tithes lives a better life, when compared with those who do not, according to the Lord of hosts. God’s laws are applicable when taking advantage of their existence, as those Israelites, possibly taking advantage of Malachi’s advice, were blessed.
But such blessings are not applicable to those desiring to see blessings encompassing everyone. A person driven by the dictates of God’s Kingdom takes full responsibility for what happens around him/her. He/she is more concerned with negative effects against other people than just him/herself. This is like Jesus, dying for sinners when He Himself was not a sinner.
This, as can be seen, implies that the gospel of God’s Kingdom cannot necessarily be good news to the proud. Generally, law-keeping benefits the law-keeper, instead of those not taking advantage of law-keeping. The law-keeper becomes proud––being at an advantage as compared with the law-breakers.
But God’s Kingdom is obviously good news to the humble, engrossed with concern for other People’s welfare. Through Christ, God delivers humanity, regardless of sinful backgrounds.
I am reminded of a BBC World Service radio interview of a Zimbabwean woman, back in 2007. Although presently details are sketchy, the woman had been one of the beneficiaries of Zimbabwe’s Land Reform Programme, accumulating huge wealth within a short period. The interviewer focussed on the sudden phenomenal acquisition of wealth to herself. One of the questions posed was:
“How does it feel to be in possession of such wealth, when surrounded by a sea of impoverished people in your country?”
Viewing the question as precarious––imagining myself in that woman’s shoes, I was totally astonished as she gracefully appreciated with flamboyance, being associated with prosperity, responding with such phrases as: “Oh, I actually give glory to God. I believe in God and I know He is the one who made all this possible for me.”
This reveals effects of personal salvation; enjoying when everyone else languish in abject poverty. Others emulate that kind of lifestyle; which cannot be sustainable, just as the Israelites’ blessings could not last. It is the opposite of the Characteristics of God’s Kingdom
The principles of God’s Kingdom leave no room for despising those violating God’s laws. It bestows full responsibility for wrongs, taking no comfort in laying blame on anyone. Most people are caught preaching the gospel of personal salvation more than God’s Kingdom. Of course, as benefits accrue in paying tithes; many become physically blessed according to Malachi’s prophecy, but without the tenets of God’s Kingdom.
Those preachers become obsessed with fund-raising, omitting instructions on fundamentals of Christianity. This then misleads believers to sink deeper into sinfulness, due to pride that naturally follows positive comparisons. Good feelings radiate against those failing to take advantage of what leads to such accumulation of wealth.
It cannot be disputed that God’s Kingdom encompasses personal salvation. But that comes as an effect, when applying needed principles. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).
The reason why Christianity is characterised with diverse denominations, is emphasis on personal salvation, instead of God’s Kingdom.
Personal salvation weighs against those not in agreement with one’s pattern of worship. True Christians passionately facilitate others’ deliverance. Although this does not imply pontificating over those practicing faith, other than what one views as correct. Doing so leads to law-keeping, uplifting self-centredness.
Like the Jewish worshipers, law-keepers abhor those not practicing the requirements of the law. It was generally this type of behaviour that caused God’s grace to skip those clamouring for their Messiah’s crucifixion. If the emphasis is on God’s Kingdom, worshippers become outward-looking. They even love their enemies, praying for their persecutors (Matt. 5:43-48). God’s Kingdom implies obsession with other people’s welfare, ahead of self.
That kind of behaviour is possible through Christ, taking over the responsibility to guide the redeemed. It cannot appeal to ordinary humans surviving in mortal flesh, assuming that physical flesh is real. God’s Kingdom is applicable to those renouncing all desires for personal glory as demonstrated by Christ.
Paul agrees: “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), So as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some…” (1 Cor. 9:19–23 NIV).
From His advantageous position of divinity, Jesus identified with sinful humanity. True Christians emulate Him (1 John 3:16). They avoid competing instead of complimenting excellent works done, even by adversaries. Judging others puts one judging on favourable ground, promoting pride. Yet God’s Kingdom portrays unconditional love though not necessarily condoning sin, an inconvenience needing eradication to restore relationships.
God’s Kingdom restores life, instead of condemning it, adding instead of subtracting value. While Jesus had enemies, not even one of them could anticipate being ambushed by Him. In other words, Jesus loved those people unconditionally, while they hated Him for not succumbing to their sinful expectations.
Christianity is not another ordinary social grouping. It does not regard other people as enemies, but on what causes enmity. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…” (Matt. 5:44 NIV)
Adopting true Christianity is more than the euphoria ordinarily displayed at faith healing crusades. Christ declares, “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). Christians have generally succeeded in adding confusion when projecting respective denominations as better than those not subscribing to their own doctrines. What is wrong is condemning one another, as Christians, instead of concentrating on the love that covers a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8).
Christianity stems from God’s love that endures forever as revealed in Psalms 136, with all verses repeating the phrase “His love endures forever.” This was not by coincidence, but by design. Repetition provides emphasis in revealing God’s nature (John 3:16-17). One cannot be Christian when displaying a different mind-set.
To ordinary people, Old Testament stories portray God as ruthless, constantly facilitating the destruction of Israel’s enemies. But such stories serve to develop a background, needed to reveal God’s nature. In those stories, God shows detestation of evil conduct, yet in Jesus, God reveals His mercy, enduring forever.
The nature of evilness in the world could cause God to destroy all humanity. It is only by grace that deliverance comes.
This is why only God’s grace is necessary for our salvation. Without it, not a single soul could escape the presence of His impeccable nature. Even those sinners, whose lives were ruthlessly terminated, during the Israelites’ dispensation, will also be resurrected to experience God’s grace (Matt. 11:24).
Jonah was baffled to the point of desiring to commit suicide, on discovering how immeasurable God’s mercies are, as compared to humanity’s ways of looking at things (Jonah 4:1-4).
Christianity implies adopting God’s nature in every conduct of one’s life. True Christians aim at doing the same. The starting point is with Jesus, whose name “Immanuel” interpreted as “God with us,” the Prophet Isaiah highlighted (Matt. 1:23). Jesus’ social character is a model for Christians.
Jesus loved everyone, regardless of ethnic or religious background. He was disowned, basically for being friendly to the despised sinners. He even demonstrated love for His enemies by healing one of those arresting Him; whose ear had been sliced off in Peter’s zeal to defend his Master. The incident took place at Gethsemane, at the darkest hour, when no-one could appreciate the significance of the goings on (Matt. 26:51-52 and Luke 22:49-51).
It did not matter whether a person kept Baal’s or Moses’ Law. Christ’s love was unconditional, as God provides sunshine and rain to both the converted and the unconverted. The Love that endures forever sustained Jesus’ nature, intermingling with people in Jerusalem and surrounding areas. His self-denial sums it up in allowing His physical body to be treated badly for the benefit of sinful humanity; across the globe—past, present and future.
All this indicates one thing: God’s Kingdom is not obsessed with personal salvation, seeking to get something from the provisions of Christian faith. The principle of giving is what matters most. This is different from holding assurance that all problems become handled when keeping certain laws, accepting Jesus as personal Saviour––good, so far as small babies survive on milk.
However, such babies eventually need strong food to sustain physical stature. “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it….You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ Are you not mere men?” (1 Cor. 3:2-4 NIV).
Paul was dealing with what identifies with our modern-day denominational phenomenon. Paul’s followers were spurred by desire for personal salvation, without concern for those with different viewpoints. The same applied to Apollos’ admirers for whatever different reasons. Today, Paul could still castigate those preferring particular denominations for personal benefits.
Loving those practicing or preaching what is different, moulds true Christianity, making a difference between maturity and immaturity. Those desiring milk alone cannot last longer, as compared with those striving for strong meat. The gospel of personal salvation focuses on personal deliverance while the gospel of God’s Kingdom focuses on Christ. True Christians take responsibility to improve conditions on the entire planet, on Christ’s behalf.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social instability. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99
Also available as an e-copy at Lulu.com for $6.99