God’s Kingdom in the World
Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you 2 Thessalonians 3:1NAS
This morning we look again at Westminster Larger Catechism Question 191, which asks, “What do we pray for in the second petition?” It gives the answer, “In the second petition (which is, Thy kingdom come,) acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fullness of the Gentiles brought in; the church furnished with all gospel-officers and ordinances, purged from corruption, countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate: that the ordinances of Christ may be purely dispensed, and made effectual to the converting of those that are yet in their sins, and the confirming, comforting, and building up of those that are already converted: that Christ would rule in our hearts here, and hasten the time of his second coming, and our reigning with him forever: and that he would be pleased so to exercise the kingdom of his power in all the world, as may best conduce to these ends.”
Last time we considered how God, by His grace, must empower the gospel of Jesus Christ to the conversion of unbelievers and to the growth in holiness of believers throughout the whole world and that these are two things we should be consciously seeking whenever we pray “Thy kingdom come.” Presently God’s kingdom is here in this world in the believing and obeying Church, which proclaims and teaches faith in and obedience to His Word. Though on this side of heaven the Church and every believer in it still has to wrangle with the kingdom of Satan. The Divines understood that until Christ’s return this will always be the case, for they teach all living Christians to pray this petition of the Lord’s Prayer “acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan.” Therefore, Christ’s kingdom will not fully come and Satan’s kingdom will not be fully put down until “the time of his second coming” when all the elect will begin “reigning with him forever.” So, besides praying for our own growth in godliness, the conversion of unbelievers, including Jews and Gentiles, the destruction of Satan’s kingdom, and the second coming of Christ, what else should we have in mind when we pray “Thy kingdom come?”
The Westminster Divines mention several specific things believers should desire and seek as we ask God to cause His kingdom to more and more hold sway in this world. First, we should pray for the Church to be “furnished with all gospel-officers and ordinances.” That is, we ask God to cause faithful shepherds to be over every church, who teach and rule by Christ’s true Word and not human inventions. We should long for the day when there are no false teachers and false doctrines corrupting the Church and confusing God’s people. The more powerfully Christ manifests His kingdom on earth, the more that will be the case. This is what it means for the Church to be “purged from corruption.” It is the corruption of falsehood that we are to be crying out against. Similarly, we ask for Christ’s ordinances – this refers to all of His commands and teachings – to be purely dispensed. Even if we have faithful shepherds teaching God’s true Word, we still need to be delivered from all of the errors that creep in. Then we ask for God to make the teaching of His Church effectual, for even if we taught all things perfectly, apart from God actively empowering that teaching by His grace, it would do us no real good whatsoever.
Finally, we ask that almighty God grant that the civil government would do its duty to protect the Church and allow it to function and prosper. The Bible gives us many examples of secular authorities protecting and blessing God’s Church. Thus we read of Pharaoh at the time of Joseph, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Ahasuerus, Darius, Galio, Claudius Lysias, and others who in one way or another “countenanced and maintained” the work of God’s people. Finally the Divines state that we should ask God to sovereignly exercise His power “as may best conduce to these ends.” Here is where we humble ourselves and submit to God’s sovereign power over all things, earnestly asking for His kingdom to come but allowing for Him to bring it in the way He sees is best. May God grant us hearts to more and more sincerely pray “Thy kingdom come!”