POSITIONS IN CHRIST’S KINGDOM
T. PIERCE BROWN
We generally look with disfavor on James and John and their mother with reference to the story told in Matthew 20:20-23. The mother wanted her sons to sit on the right and left hand of Jesus in His kingdom. We speak against that sort of striving for a prominent position. The other ten were indignant. One may infer from what Jesus said that one of the reasons they were angry was because they wanted the same kind of position. Some of us may see the desire for prominence as reprehensible far more readily in others than in ourselves. It is usually easier to see the mote in our brother’s eye than the beam in our own.
There are some positions we need to take in Christ’s kingdom before we get too concerned with those prominent positions. Jesus said, “It is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father” (Matthew20:23). Other positions we may take can help prepare us for this one.
First, there is a sitting position. In Luke 10:38-43 when Martha received Jesus as a guest into her house, she was distracted with much serving. Mary sat at His feet and listened to His teaching. Jesus said in verse 43, “Mary has chosen the good portion.” There is a time and place for serving, but there needs to be a constant awareness that we cannot possibly serve properly until we have sat and learned. Jesus said, “He that hath heard and hath learned of the Father cometh unto me” (John6:45). He said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John8:32). It is amazing almost beyond belief that there are some who claim to be preachers of the gospel today who teach that (1) one cannot know the truth, and (2) that one can be saved by believing and practicing error. For example, it is taught that a man may believe that he is saved before and without baptism, and yet be saved while explicitly denying the importance of the statement Jesus made, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). It seems too simple to miss that “Faith comes by hearing” (Romans10:17). Yet it seems evident that many, even in the Lord’s church, seem to assume that one can have great faith without reference to what the Lord has said.
A second position that is important before we are prepared for prominence in the kingdom is a standing position. 1 Corinthians16:13says, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” There are several things suggested by this admonition. A standing position is one of vigilance. It is one of perseverance. “Stand fast” suggests that other things may change, but the Christian is to be steadfast. Of course a standing position is worth nothing if it is not standing fast in the faith. That is the faith that was once and for all delivered unto the saints (Jude 3). It is heartbreaking that an increasing number of brethren are taking the position that much of the faith that was delivered unto the saints is merely a cultural tradition, and has no bearing on us today.
Third, there needs to be a walking position. Romans4:12says that Abraham was “the father of circumcision to them who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham which he had in uncircumcision.” A walking position indicates movement, progress, direction and purpose. Our walk requires guidance, for 2 Corinthians 5:7 says, “We walk by faith and not by sight.”
Fourth, there needs to be a running position. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” This verse suggests several things if we are to run properly in order to be prepared for the prominent position around the throne. First, we must be sure that we do not have some sin in our lives that will hinder us or cause us to stumble. Then there should be an urgency to be about our Father’s business. The fact that we are to run with patience indicates the necessity for steadfastness of purpose in the face of difficulty, disaster, danger or death. Although others around us fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, we must keep on in faith. But the race is not just any race. It is the one that is set before us. We must be on the right track, running according to the rules laid down by the King. It must be in the right direction, for we are to look unto Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.
Then there must be a fighting position. Perhaps because so many of us have seen so much strife about what we consider trivial matters, there is a growing tendency to feel that there is no value in the Christian warfare. There is just nothing worth fighting for, so we take off the whole armor of God, for we are unwilling to stand or fight for anything. There are even preachers who contend that there is no doctrine (and apparently nothing else) worth contending for, although Jude 3 still reads, “Contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”
When Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith,” he could say, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.” The implication of “henceforth” is here almost equivalent to “therefore.” If he had not fought the proper fight, finished the course the Lord had laid out for him, and kept the faith that was delivered, he need not expect any crown.
James and John were thinking of reigning with Christ in some earthly position of prominence. He pointed out that positions of prominence in His spiritual kingdom were not granted arbitrarily, but was reserved for those for whom it was prepared. It is prepared for us if we faithfully fulfill our responsibilities in other positions that God ordained for us. In addition to the sitting, walking, standing, running and fighting positions, one of the most neglected positions is probably the kneeling position. That is, true, humble, submissive prayer is probably much rarer, and far more important, than we might suppose. One thing is certain. If our central goal is to attain a position of prominence, we will miss it. But if we are prepared for it by having filled these other positions properly, God will place us in whatever position of prominence He has prepared for us.