I will give into thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
What qualified Peter to become God’s mouthpiece, to open the door of faith first to Jews and then to Gentiles? Surely it was that before Peter spoke he had himself been spoken to, for before he could make use of the keys of the Kingdom he must encounter the demands of that Kingdom upon himself.
What does the term “kingdom” mean? Surely it is the realm of a king, the sphere of his authority. Soon after this, in the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter made his brilliant suggestion which would have provided a place for Moses and Elijah alongside the Lord. But in the Kingdom you cannot do that! You cannot have more than one authority. There can only be one Voice. It was to point this lesson that “while he yet spake” the Father broke in with a rebuke which makes it plain that in the Kingdom everything hangs upon the King Himself speaking and upon our paying heed to his words.
In the twenty-eighth chapter of Matthew, Jesus said that unto Him all authority had been given. He prefaces what is known as the Great Commission with this statement:
Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority (all power of absolute rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations [help the people to learn of Me, believe in Me, and obey My words], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always [remaining with you perpetually—regardless of circumstance, and on every occasion], even to the end of the age.”
Matthew records these as the last words of his gospel indicating they were the last comments Jesus made before His ascension. The importance of these words cannot be overstated for Luke records similar words as the last ones of Jesus in the book of Acts:
“But you will receive power ability when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses [to tell people about Me] both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.”
The apostle Paul tells us that there are many voices in the world and all of them are clamoring for our attention:
“There are, I suppose, a great many kinds of languages in the world [unknown to us], and none is lacking in meaning.
1 Corinthians 14:10
Yet we must remember the words of Christ:
The sheep that are My own hear My voice listen to Me; I know them, and they follow Me.
What then do these verses of Scripture mean to us?
In the prayer model the Lord taught the disciples- commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer- we pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” What then are we asking? Are we not as individuals inviting Christ to be our king? And if we are to truly make Him king, are we not then making ourselves His subjects? Paul, in describing this relationship uses the term “bondservant.” A bondservant was one who of their own free will submitted themselves to service of their master for their entire life. They gave up their rights, privileges, and choices and gave themselves completely to the service of their master. In Paul’s day, when someone chose to become a bondservant they would go to the city elders along with the one who was to be their master and make a public declaration of their desire. The city elders would record their decision and in some fashion mark that servant to identify them as bondservants. Sometimes they would pierce their ear or nose and insert a ring. At other times they would be branded. But anyone who saw them would immediately recognize they were life-long bondservants. These were not slaves- those who were bought or sold or pressed into unwilling service. These were ones who loved their masters and willing gave themselves to them.
When we pray “Thy kingdom come” we aren’t just praying that Christ would come and establish His kingdom on earth. We are praying that His kingdom would be established in us first. Many there are who wish to be saved and to inherit heaven, but few there be who desire the kingdom of Christ to reign over their lives. Many Christians wish to enjoy the benefits without the responsibility of citizenship. But if the kingdom has truly come then the king alone has authority. And if Christ is truly our king then He alone has authority over us. In us individually and collectively as the church Christ has the only authority. This is what He says in Matthew: “All authority has been given unto me….” No matter one else has any authority in His kingdom unless He delegates it. This means that we have no decision-making power especially when it comes to our purpose and much more so when it comes to His church. He did not say that He would build our church. What He said was that He would build His church- individually as His temple and collectively as the Body of Christ. This would be built upon the premise, the foundation, the rock of the truth that He is the Son of the Living God who holds all power and authority.
Our application to this truth then is to acknowledge that we are nothing more than servants. We are not oppressed slaves but free bondservants who willingly choose to become the sheep who hear His voice and His servants who give themselves willing to His mission and purposes.
We will never be successful individually nor collectively until we make the choice to honor Christ as king. The lesson of the Mount of Transfiguration is that no one stands equal to Christ. Peter’s assumption that he was in some way honoring Christ by equating Him to Moses and Elijah- the two spiritual heroes of Israel- was quickly renounced as the Father spoke from heaven and declared, “This(and this alone) is My beloved Son, hear Him.” As great as Moses and Elijah were in the minds of the Jews, they were not in any form equal to Christ. In the same manner, there are none- whether individuals, churches, or denominations on equal footing with Christ. We may try to build our own lives or kingdoms as individuals, congregations, or even denominations where we believe we can decide our purpose, mission, or acceptable conduct and lifestyle, but Christ won’t be involved in it. The lesson of the Laodicean church in Revelation indicates it’s possible to have an outward appearance of being the church but at the same time to leave Him outside as we gather in and close the door. This church literally said they were self-sufficient without Christ. Let us remember that Christ did not promise to build our institutions but to build His church. Let us remember that since Christ has all authority there is none unless He delegates it and only to His servants does He do so. We may appear for a season to successfully operate on our own outside the authority of Christ but ultimately everything other than His will collapse. It might appear right now that Satan is operating well while opposing the kingdom of Christ but let us not be fooled for even he one day will have to recognize there is no kingdom and power other than that of Christ.
“For this reason also [because He obeyed and so completely humbled Himself], God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow [in submission], of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess and openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord (sovereign God), to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2: 9-11
We don’t have to wait for that day. Today we can choose to become the bondservants of Christ. May we find our rock in the Garden of Gethsemane and pray as Christ prayed, “Not my will but Yours be done.” Open the door, invite Christ to take His place on the throne if your heart and establish His kingdom and like Peter, you too will be given the keys of the Kingdom to lock and unlock at the Master’s bidding.
“I assure you most solemnly say to you, whatever you bind [forbid, declare to be improper and unlawful] on earth shall have [already] been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose [permit, declare lawful] on earth shall have [already] been loosed in heaven. “Again I say to you, that if two believers on earth agree [that is, are of one mind, in harmony] about anything that they ask [within the will of God], it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in My name [meeting together as My followers], I am there among them.”
Matthew 18: 18-20
Dr. John Thompson