View the latest posts in an easy-to-read list format, with filtering options.
The citizens of the Kingdom of God are all those who have faith in Jesus, manifested by their support of His claim to the throne. This was the big issue during Christ’s ministry when He presented Himself to the nation. He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38) with signs following, and many then believed in Him.
However, some doubted, and most importantly, the religious leaders of the land rejected His claim. In the end, the majority of the people followed the lead of their religious leaders, because they had more faith in them than in Christ. So John 1:11, 12 tells us,
11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.
Their rejection, of course, was necessary in order for Christ to die on the cross and thereby redeem the people from sin and to restore all things. Therefore, Christ’s death should not be viewed as a failure but as a success.
The Household of Faith
Those who receive Christ, believing that He is indeed the Messiah with the divine right to rule Judah, Israel, and all of creation, are given “the right to become children of God.” Citizens of the Kingdom, then, are not to be defined in earthly terms, where many unrelated families gather together for a common national purpose. Kingdom citizens become part of a family.
In the Old Testament times, this family is identified as the household of Abraham, or the children of Abraham. In the New Testament, this idea is expanded, for they are called “children of God.”
Abraham’s household included thousands of people who shared a common faith with Abraham and came out with him from Ur of the Chaldees. A short time after arriving in Canaan (and before he had any children of his own), he was able to send 318 men of war, “born in his house” (Genesis 14:14), to rescue his nephew. We may extrapolate from this that there were at least 2,000 men, women, and children, in his household who were not actually his biological children.
In following Abraham and recognizing his revelation of God, they all manifested the same quality of faith that Abraham himself had. This, I believe, is where the Apostle Paul got his terminology in Galatians 6:10 KJV, calling the believers there “the household of faith.” It was in this same epistle that Paul wrote in Galatians 3:7-9,
7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8 The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.
Again, he writes in Galatians 3:26-29,
26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.
The point is that one need not be a biological descendant of Abraham to be one of his children. Those who are of faith are “heirs according to the promise” as if they were His biological children. As heirs, they have the same calling given to Abraham to be a blessing to all the families of the earth.
In essence, the calling of Abraham is to cause the nations to repent of their wicked ways (Acts 3:25, 26), so that these too may join the household of faith as Abraham’s children. Faith, then, not genealogy, determines whether one is a son of Abraham and a son of God as well.
And yet, there are different levels of faith, which determine one’s position and calling within Abraham’s family.
Levels of Faith
In Luke 17:5, 6 we read,
5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and be planted in the sea”; and it would obey you.
We see from this that faith can be increased and that faith as small as a mustard seed can work miracles. Faith, then, can grow and mature. Again, Paul says in Romans 1:17,
17 For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
Paul speaks of our faith growing from less faith to greater faith. In Romans 14:1 the apostle tells us to “accept the one who is weak in faith.” The immediate issue was that some believers were vegetarians, and their conscience was violated if they ate meat. Paul says in Romans 14:21-23,
21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. 22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.
Paul himself could “eat meat” or “drink wine” without violating his conscience, but others could not. In other words, some people’s faith was “weak,” implying that other people’s faith was stronger or greater. Nonetheless, all were part of God’s household of faith.
With this in mind, we come to the main question.
What is Faith?
First of all, faith is “the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). How is it acquired? Faith is the by-product of the word of God, for “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). There is no faith until God speaks and men hear. God’s voice has creative power. God’s voice creates faith. Faith, then, is a response to something that God says.
Faith is also a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22 KJV). Fruit does not appear by itself on its own initiative. It is a gift from the branch or the vine. Jesus said in John 15:4, 5,
4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
We are branches who receive sustenance from the main trunk of the “tree,” Jesus Christ. As branches, we bear fruit—the fruit of faith in this case—which is pleasing to God. This metaphor illustrates our dependence upon the word of Christ to produce faith in us.
A true response of faith is then made manifest to all by “faithfulness,” which is a life of faith. So Galatians 5:22 (NASB) says the fruit of the Spirit is “faithfulness.” Faithfulness is extended faith. So again, when Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4, he writes, “the righteous man shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).
That is certainly an accurate translation, but The Jerusalem Bible reads, “the upright man will live by his faithfulness.” Rotherham’s The Emphasized Bible, renders it, “But one who is righteous by his faithfulness shall live.”
To be faithful is to be full of faith, so while translators may differ, we need not be disturbed by the nuances of faith and faithfulness. The bottom line is that if a man says he has faith but is not faithful, we might question is faith. It is the same with the man who claims to have faith but produces no evidence of his faith (James 2:14-26). If a man’s claim of faith lacks evidence, should the faithful ones consider him to be a child of Abraham or of God?
New Covenant Faith
True faith/faithfulness is set forth by the example of Abraham. Paul tells us in Romans 4:20-22,
20 Yet with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. 22 Therefore, it was also credited to him as righteousness.
This is the clearest definition of faith that I have found in Scripture. Faith is not a religion or denomination (as when men ask, “What faith are you?”). Neither is faith an assurance that what I have promised God, I will be able to perform (as with the Old Covenant in Exodus 19:8). New Covenant faith comes first by hearing the promise of God and by believing that He is able to perform what He has promised.
Old Covenant faith is based on the promises of men to God; New Covenant faith is based on the promises of God to men. Yet any “faith” that is based upon the word of men gives no one the right to become the children of God. Men are not the initiator of New Covenant faith. No matter how sincere a man is in declaring his decision to follow Christ, he cannot succeed fully, because he is yet imperfect.
This does not mean that we should refrain from making a decision to follow Jesus. Far from it. We are all called to repent of our own ways and to turn to follow Him. The problem comes when we base our salvation upon our own decision, our own vow or promise which we are incapable of fulfilling prior to our transformation into His image. For this reason, those who know their limitations remain in fear of losing their salvation every time they fall short of the glory of God.
True faith, Paul says, is knowing that God will not fail to perform all that He has promised. Though we ourselves ought to make a commitment to God and pledge to serve Christ, our faith does not lie in our own ability to keep our word but in God’s ability to keep His promise. His promise is to change us from within by the power of the Holy Spirit. We give ourselves over to His Spirit, and so God is the One responsible to train us and change us into His image.
Those with New Covenant faith follow the example of Abraham and are thus His children and also the children of God. These are the citizens of the Kingdom—and more. As sons of God, they are called to reign with Christ. They are citizens who are given authority, based on their level of faithfulness.