Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
That His Kingdom Would Come in Me
We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. 1 John 5:19NKJV
This morning we look 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 looked at this question, we examined the present and future aspect of the kingdom of God. God’s kingdom really is here now. Jesus brought it into this world at His first coming and it can never be fully driven out (Matt. 16:18). The power of the kingdom is at this time exclusively spiritual and it is present and active in the Church, which acknowledges and obeys the laws of the king and looks to Him for guidance and protection. It is now a kingdom of grace, proclaimed and extended by the gospel, believed in and transforming the heart. But the kingdom is also future and not yet here in its fullness. This future aspect is the kingdom in glory, when its power will fully conquer and fully reign over every creature. Thus, according to the Westminster Divines when Christians pray this petition they acknowledge that this world is still under “the dominion of sin and Satan,” and will be until Jesus returns (2 Thess. 2:8). This is probably the reason why Paul calls Satan “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). For as long as Jesus delays His second coming, Satan’s rule continues in the minds and bodies of unbelievers. And so we see his sway in this world’s beliefs, practices, and institutions, as indicated by the Scripture verse at the head of this article.
Today’s question teaches that even believers, who worship Christ as their king and live by His law, must pray this prayer “acknowledging ourselves… to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan.” That is, every Christian who has a new nature, borne by the grace of the Holy Spirit in God’s effectual call of the gospel to his heart, has not yet been fully transformed into a faithful citizen of the kingdom. We still have to fight the sway of the kingdom of Satan in our not-yet-perfected hearts. The apostle Paul acknowledged this battle in his own life when he confessed to loving God’s law in one sense and yet seeing “another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom. 7:24). This is the dominion that we believers have to endure this side of eternity. Sin still has its claws in us even though it no longer controls us.
Accordingly, praying for God’s kingdom to come is praying for the increasing of the transformation of my own heart as much as it is for the world. Since the gospel is what frees men from being in bondage to sin and what strengthens Christians in their battle with transgression, our prayer for Christ’s kingdom asks for the gospel to be “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.” In other words we pray that unbelievers would be converted and that Christians would be sanctified so that “Christ would rule in our hearts here,” meaning that His rule would grow stronger in us while we yet live in this world. This prayer acknowledges that apart from God’s power the gospel would not convert or sanctify anyone, and that God must, as He pleases and in answer to our requests, save sinners and cause His believing children to grow in godliness. And because Jesus taught us to ask God to do this, we should be motivated to ever more ask, knowing that God will most certainly grant the prayers His own Son taught us to pray.