The Matters Connected with the Kingdom of God
H.H. POPE SHENOUDA III
Our Lord Christ often spoke to His disciples about the matters connected with the Kingdom of God, and this was possible through constructive spiritual conversation.
Among the examples of constructive spiritual conversations are the conversations between Saint Mary and Saint Elizabeth, and the meeting between Saint Anthony and Saint Paul. Such spiritual conversation is about the Kingdom of God, according to the Scripture, "The lip of the righteous is a spring of life. " As for those who are not spiritual, their words are destructive, or at least a waste of time.
Among the constructive talks are the visits that people pay to the saints in which they demand a word of benefit for the building up of their spiritual life. The desire of both the speaker and the listener is to talk about matters related to the Kingdom of God. Both of them find pleasure, consolation and benefit and feel the presence of God during these talks.
It was the work of the apostles, prophets, preachers, teachers, spiritual guides and priests to talk to people about matters concerned with the Kingdom of God, according to the statement of Paul the apostle, "We strive as messengers of Christ, as if God was preaching through us; we call people to be reconciled with God. "
The Lord Christ said to his disciples that they should preach, as there were no written gospels at that time, and thus, the words were delivered from one person to another.
The first Gospel to be written was that of Saint Mark, shortly after Christ. How then did the people get instruction? This was by no doubt, through the oral words of Christ, from His talks about matters concerned with the Kingdom of God.
At that time, the apostles did not write, but they preached. They did not write all that they had heard from Christ, but they taught it to others through word of mouth, as Saint John stated, "Having many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face that your joy may be made full." ( 2John12 )
He handed over this speech from mouth to mouth, so that they might deliver it to others without any writing, and their joy was completed by this delivery
Saint John mentioned the same method in his message to Gaius ( 3John13 ). Likewise, Saint Paul the apostle says to his disciple Timothy, "And the things you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to the faithful men who will be apt to teach others also." ( 2Timothy2 :2)
'Apostolic delivery' was originally granted to the apostles from the speech of God to them about the matters concerned with the Kingdom of God. Although Saint Paul was not among the twelve disciples, according to the same rule, he said to the Corinthians, "For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you." ( 1Corinthians 11 :23)
People received all this by way of tradition, and without any written gospels; they received it by word of mouth and lived with it. From the beginning, the method that God adopted was to write His Law in the hearts of people before writing it in books, in both the Old and the New Testaments. In the same way the Lord Christ sat with His disciples to talk to them, instead of leaving a book for them.
What were those matters concerned with the Kingdom, that He spoke about to them? There is no doubt that the mysteries of the Church were among those matters; had not He already said to Nicodemus "Unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. " (John3 :5)
Our Lord handed over to His disciples the matters concerned with the sacraments of the Church, and thus, Saint Paul explained the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Also among the matters concerned with the Kingdom of God were the preaching and instruction.
This is why He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." (Matthew28 :19 -20)
The apostles devoted themselves to "prayer and to the ministry" (Acts 6:4), that is, the sacraments and instruction. As long as faith is essential for the kingdom, "...how shall they believe in Him when they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Romans10 :14)
Instruction became a vital act. Saint Paul the apostle says about it that, "As I have been entrusted with a mission then woe unto me if I do not preach!" He also said to his disciple, Timothy, "Take care of yourself and of instruction: Keep on doing that, for if you do so, you will save yourself and those who listen to you as well. "
Instruction leads to faith, and
faith leads to baptism, and "...he who believes and is baptized will be
The word became a testimony for God, Who said, "You shall be My witnesses. "(Acts1 :8) Therefore, after His Ascension with great power, the apostles used to bear witness, and "...abundant grace was upon them all." (Acts4 :33) They could not abstain from speaking, and they "...filled Jerusalem with their teaching." (Acts5 :28)
Among the matters concerned with the Kingdom of God was their relation to the Holy Spirit and the work of the Holy Spirit in them. Our Lord was going to send to them the Holy Spirit after His Ascension, and thus it was necessary for Him to talk to them about the Holy Spirit that speaks through the prophets and through their mouths; He said to them, "It will not be you who will speak but the Spirit of your Father," the Holy Spirit who acts in all the sacraments of the Church, and gave them power as He said to them, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses. " (Acts 1 :8)
Our Lord handed over to His disciples the power to "bind and loose."
The Scripture says that He breathed over their faces and said to them "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them. If you retain the sins of any, they have been retained. " (John 20:21-23)
He also delivered to them the cross of the service.
He explained to them the troubles which they would meet with. He also said to Saint Peter "by what kind of death he would glorify God." (John 21:19) He had already told them that they were going to be brought before courts and judges. This is why, when the apostles later met with persecutions, they did not care, for He had already told them.
Thus, God prepared them by all means for the coming service.
The ministry, however, was not all cross, it also included assistance and strength, and thus He talked to the disciples about the power that they would receive, and about the miracles that the Holy Spirit would enable them to perform.
Our lord Jesus Christ said to them, "And these signs will accompany those who have believed; in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents; and if they drink any deadly poison, it shall not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover." (Mark16 :17-18)
What then is our attitude towards these matters concerning the Kingdom?
Do we sit with Christ so that He may talk to us about the matters concerned with the Kingdom? Do we go to Him where He is, so that He may talk to us, as He had asked His disciples to go to Galilee saying, "There they will see Me," and they went and met Him?
Are we preparing ourselves for the ministry so as to build the kingdom as they did? If not at the level of church service, let it be at the level of the family and friends, or at the very least, we may build the Kingdom of God inside ourselves, so as to be trained to build that kingdom outside ourselves.
Are we training ourselves for the life of communion with the Holy Spirit like them? Without the Spirit we can do nothing.
Are we punctual in partaking in the Eucharist where the Spirit acts, and in participating in the other means of grace which are among the matters concerned with the Kingdom of God?
We must examine ourselves lest we should be adhering to the matters connected with the world, the body and matter, and thus depriving ourselves from sitting with Christ.
Our adherence to the kingdom and the matters concerned with it needs inner conviction to the importance of this kingdom in relation to our eternity, and also the salvation of other people.
If we attain this conviction, our hearts will be inflamed with holy zeal and the love of God, and then we will be interested in the matters concerned with the kingdom.
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