Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from a much longer article based on Acts 28:17-31. It focuses on the spiritual clash between heavenly and earthly realities as God’s kingdom expands throughout all the earth. If we understand that Jesus is already reigning in heaven, we can live confidently and securely, no matter what earthly setbacks we experience. This is a truth of particular value to Chinese in house churches, who know what it means to be marginalized and persecuted. They must constantly remind themselves that God is mightier than earthly rulers, and that victory does not come through the power of the sword.
This article was first published, in its entirety and in the original Chinese, on the Grace to City site in April 2022.
The Secret to Church Victory
Every church of Jesus Christ has a development process: from planting, to blossoming, to bearing fruit. As each church develops and grows, there will be humbling and pioneering stumbles, but also unique challenges and bottlenecks. What is the secret to church victory? I am deeply convinced: an important secret lies in whether you and I dare connect our church and personal life goals to the end of life, and the purpose God has designed for us.
Do we trust the reality that Jesus, who is risen from the dead, reigns in heaven? This is the strong message of the book of Acts.
Proclaim the Gospel and the Kingdom
From the beginning of the Lord Jesus’s ministry to his final teaching before he ascended into heaven, he had one primary goal: to proclaim God’s kingdom and gospel. This is the reason he lived, died, rose, reigns, and will come again. For Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God occupies an absolutely central place. After he was resurrected from the dead, Jesus spent 40 days proclaiming God’s kingdom.
Before Jesus ascended, he told the disciples: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Jesus is both outlining and foretelling the process through which the gospel of the kingdom will spread. The Holy Spirit uses the apostles to spread that gospel: from its beginnings in Jerusalem, then throughout Judea and Samaria, and finally extending to the ends of the earth.
At the end of the book of Acts, Paul is a prisoner. Yet he preaches the kingdom of God boldly and tenderly. Although he is a prisoner, he seems unhindered as he proclaims the kingdom in the very heart of the Roman Empire – which at the time was considered the very “ends of the earth.” Paul’s bold proclamation of the gospel and the kingdom was an immeasurable inspiration to the persecuted church.
This process of spreading the kingdom to the ends of the earth is still continuing today, and the currently persecuted house churches of Mainland China are part of that process. [After new religious regulations went into effect in 2018, a large number of overseas missionaries were forced to leave Mainland China. At the same time, many churches were persecuted, such as Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu. Many leaders in that church, including Pastor Wang Yi, his wife, many elders, and others were criminally detained, yet the scattered church continued, by God’s grace, to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom.]
The Victory of the Heavenly
The book of Acts has a definite conclusion: in the contest between heavenly and earthly realities, the heavenly must prevail. There is an ongoing spiritual battle between two realities. God’s kingdom is on earth, and it continues to expand.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
The kingdom of God grows in many ways: through the death, resurrection, ascension, and reign of his Son; by the powerful Holy Spirit he has given us; and through his perfect word. God’s people are fighting in a cosmic spiritual war against the sin and death and corruption of this world, and also against the devil and his demonic army. The church grows and develops through her struggles, failures, breakthroughs, and victories in this war.
One of the major ways God’s kingdom comes is through the battle between the sword and the power of the word. Throughout Acts, Luke summarizes the growth of the church at least half a dozen times. One example is found in Acts 6:7, which says: “the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly.”
We can continue faithful in prayer for the coming of the kingdom of God. The power of the word has already decisively prevailed over the power of the sword; right now, it is continuing to prevail; and in the future, it will completely prevail. The church’s mission is to proclaim throughout all the earth that Christ is the great Lord. His kingdom has been established on earth. His kingdom will continue to expand until the kingdoms of this world become, forever, the kingdom of Christ our Lord.
Dr. Ben Chen is the director of Chinese language at Third Millennium Ministries.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray that the Chinese church will joyfully and faithfully continue proclaiming and building God’s kingdom on earth.