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Lynwood Smith

“My kingdom is not of this world,” declared Jesus to Pilate, the Roman procurator. What did he mean? When he spoke these words he implied that there were certain kinds of kingdoms existing different from the one that he would establish. Thus we see one great division existing; the kingdom of Christ, composed of all the redeemed of the earth, and the kingdoms of this world, composed of all the earthly governments in existence.

In what way is the kingdom of Christ versus the kingdoms of this world? The fact that these separate kingdoms stand for and uphold different principles is proof that they are at variance. But, to prove that these kingdoms are antagonistic, it will be necessary to notice the difference between them. First, let us notice,


The kingdoms of this world are owned by the devil. I mean by this that every civil government upon the earth is the property of Satan. In Luke 4:5 we read, “And the devil taking him up into an high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, And the devil said unto him, all this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.”

But there are those who, in an effort to disprove this, say that the devil lied. They deny the verity of the devil’s words, “These are delivered unto me.” But, we notice that Jesus did not contend with the devil as to the ownership.

Jesus admitted that the devil owned these kingdoms by implication. Had the devil been lying, the Savior would surely have reproved him for that. But the only thing the Savior did was to resist the devil by putting him behind him. But again, if these kingdoms belonged to the Lord as some contend, why would the Scriptures have said “The devil tempted him”? Could the devil tempt Christ with something that already belonged to him? The devil knew of Christ’s mission in the world; he knew that he had come to establish a kingdom that would be antagonistic to his own kingdoms. So, in order to keep the kingdom of Christ from being established in the world, the devil offered Christ these worldly kingdoms. Did Christ take them? No, thus we see that civil powers did not and have not found favor in the eyes of the Lord. For these kingdoms were not the kind for the Prince of Peace. They were “of this world,” but the one that Christ was to establish was “not of this world.” Thus the reason for Christ’s refusal is obvious.

Some still, in an effort to prove that these kingdoms are of God, ask the question, “How can these powers be of the devil and still be ordained of God?” Just as God used Pharaoh, who was a servant of the devil, to do certain things that would have been a sin for Moses to have done, so God ordains or appoints (not forces) world kingdoms to do things that would be a sin for members of the kingdom of Christ to do. God wants certain things accomplished and, since it would be wrong for the subjects of his kingdom to do them, he uses these worldly kingdoms that are already under condemnation to do this work. Because the scriptures say, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,” some say that human governments belong to God. It is true that the earth, and everything that the Lord created belongs to him. But, be it remembered that the Lord did not create human governments. They were founded by man in rebellion to God. (Gen. 10:10). So, when they were founded, because of their rebellion, they were turned over to the devil just as every rebellious and disobedient person. In Luke 4:5, the devil tells us that these powers were “delivered” unto him.

Another noticeable feature concerning this kingdom is that one of the greatest extremes known to mankind is used to describe it. That extreme is darkness. Throughout the Scriptures the term “darkness is used to describe civil powers. I know of nothing that describes its base, ungodly and low principles any plainer than this term. In Luke 22:53, when the civil powers came with lanterns and torches, swords and spears to seize the Son of God, Jesus said, “This is your hour, and the power of darkness.” Also, in Eph. 6:12, they are spoken of as the “darkness of this world.”

How could they be pictured otherwise when they are upheld by the bloody sword and force is their nature?  Greed, lust, hatred, warfare, bloodshed, envy, strife, rebellion and the disregard for the rights of others reign supreme within their-vast domains. But now, let us consider,


What a contrast! It is just like emerging from a dark and dismal dungeon and walking into the illuminating rays of the noon day’s sun. For the opposite extreme, which is light, is used to describe this kingdom. And as light differs from darkness, so does the kingdom of Christ differ from the kingdoms of this world. In Col. 1:12, 13, this kingdom is described by light. How beautifully it is described! For in the kingdom of Christ there is love, peace, forgiveness, longsuffering, gentleness, kindness and the tenderest regards for the rights of a brother.

What about the king of this kingdom? Ah! He is “the Messiah,” the “Prince of peace,” the gentle “Lamb of God.” For he it was who bought it with his own precious blood (Acts 20:28). All of the greatest heroes of earthly kingdoms conquered by their life: he by his death. They built kingdoms and founded empires by the shedding of the blood of others; but he, by the shedding of his blood for others, established this kingdom of light. It is no wonder that Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

We can see that these kingdoms are separate and distinct powers. They do not and cannot mix. There stands, as it were, a line between these powers that has been placed by the hand of God. The citizens of the kingdom of Christ are forbidden participating in the affairs of the kingdoms of this world. But an invitation stands to those who are in the kingdom of darkness to forsake the kingdom of darkness and its ways and obtain entrance into the kingdom of our Lord, the beautiful Mount Zion. And by doing this they become “new creatures.” (2 Cor. 5: 17)

There is a warfare existing between these kingdoms. The forces of each kingdom are on the battle ground. In Eph. 6: 12, Paul says, “We (members of the kingdom of Christ) wrestle not against flesh and blood; but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Thus we see that the war is on and the battle forces are in array.

We shall trace some who have left these kingdoms of darkness and have come into the kingdom of Christ. In Col. 1:12.13, we read, “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” Here we see that some have left the kingdoms of darkness and have become members of the kingdom of Christ. What was required of them? In Rom. 13: 12, Paul speaks thus: “Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” And again, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5: 11). So we see, after we leave the kingdoms of darkness and come into the kingdom of Christ, we are commanded to “cast off the works of darkness and have no fellowship with them.” Then, according to the foregoing, there are many things done in the kingdoms of the world that we Christians cannot do. We have a few questions of paramount importance that we shall ask and answer according to the word of the Lord.


You will notice the question is not, may sinners or worldly nations engage in carnal warfare, but may Christians, those who have left these kingdoms of darkness and have  come into the kingdom of light? Carnal means “fleshly” (Webster). Eph. 6: 12, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood.” According to this the members of Christ’s kingdom are forbidden such. Again, 2 Cor. 10:3,4, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds).”

Jesus also made the statement, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36). We see that Christ’s kingdom was not of this world because it possessed certain peculiarities, one of these being the fact that Jesus did not authorize or allow his followers to use the carnal sword. We do have an account of Christ’s rebuking one of his followers for using the sword. In Luke 22:36, before the disciples entered the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus commanded them to sell their purses and buy a sword. In John 18: 11, He teaches a lesson with it. After the overzealous Peter smote Malchus, servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear, Christ rebuked him sharply, “Put up thy sword into the sheath (John. 18: 11). “For all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matt. 26:52). So when Jesus sheathed the sword of Peter, he sheathed the sword of every one of his followers. Thus we conclude that, if Christ would tolerate one of his followers fighting to protect him, he would not allow his followers to fight to uphold a wicked, immoral and ungodly government.

In Isa. 2:2-4 we have a prophecy of the kingdom of Christ. Isaiah, while enthralled in prophetic ecstasy, saw the kingdom of God established and towering far above the mountains (worldly kingdoms). Many people came to the house of the Lord, were taught of his ways, and walked in his paths. The Lord judged among many of the nations and rebuked many people. What were the results? What did he rebuke them for? “They shall beat their swords into plow shares and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4) When one becomes a citizen of Christ’s kingdom he is to “learn war no more.” Some contend that the kingdom Isaiah saw has never been established. Those who so contend put themselves in the class with those who are looking for a future kingdom.


This question is really answered in the foregoing. For, if a Christian would not be allowed to go forth into battle, would he be allowed to elect the men to office whose duty it is to declare the war? If he could elect them to office, could he not go forth in obedience to their orders? Could he not fight in the war that his men have declared? To reason otherwise would be very inconsistent. We have been translated out of the kingdom of darkness, and have put off the works of darkness, and have put on the whole armor of light. Now can we cross over the boundary line and go back into these kingdoms of darkness to help carry on their political affairs? I am persuaded that such would be displeasing to “him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). We are commanded to have “no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.” Can we heed that injunction and assist in the prosecution of the affairs of the “power of darkness?” We are also commanded to “reprove them.” Can we reprove them and at the same time be doing everything within our power to propagate and advance them?  It is God who appoints the rulers of these kingdoms for Daniel says, “He ruleth in the kingdom of men” (Dan. 4:17). “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever: for the wisdom and might are his: and he changeth the times and seasons: He removeth kings, and setteth up kings” (Dan. 2:20,21) Thus we learn it is God who does the setting up and the removing of the worldly rulers. Who are we to cast a ballot for a ruler when it is God who attends to that?  Should we cast a ballot for one man and he be defeated, another being elected in his stead, would we not be arraying ourselves against God’?


Having proved that it would he sinful for Christians to engage in carnal combat and vote in the political affairs of’ human governments, it logically implied that it would be wrong to hold office in these same kingdoms. Yet we will get into a more detailed study. When the Savior said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” he also meant that those who are in his kingdom must not he of this world either. For in James 4:4, we read, “Know ye not that the friendship of this world is enmity with God.” From this it is evident that it would be incompatible with the divine law for a Christian to go into the dismal powers of the condemned and sit as a ruler. The only place that a Christian has a right to rule is within the domains of the “holy nation” into which we have been called (I Pet. 2:8). Daniel says, “The most High ruleth in the kingdoms of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth over it the basest of men” (Dan. 4: 17). What kind of men does God put over these kingdoms?  Daniel says “base” men. Such an office would be inconsistent with Christian profession, and God does not use a Christian for that evil work. Again in Eph. 6:12, Paul says, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Thus, Christians are to put on the spiritual amour and wrestle against the “rulers of the darkness of this world.” How could he be a “ruler of the darkness of this world” and at the same time wrestle against these rulers? Would he not be wrestling against himself and opposing himself (I1 Tim.2:25)? Rulers are also ordained of God to do certain works that would be sinful for Christians to do. They must keep order at all cost. They must do everything within their power to enforce civil law, regardless of the law. Paul says of these officers in Romans 13:4, “He is a minister of God to thee for good. But if thou shalt do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is a minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” Could a Christian hold this office and do this work? No, for a Christian must “Recompense to no man evil for evil” (Rom. 12:17). Even running for an office would be wrong for a Christian. For, when one announces himself for office, he must exalt himself to the extent that he makes himself the most competent man in all the world for that office. He also makes it very manifest that no one on earth can perform the duties of that office as efficiently as he, and, as a rule, many boasts and brags are made which are never performed. Does this sound like the spirit of the lowly NaxareneC?-Or even the spirit of one of his followers’? Ni), in no wise. In Phil. 2:3, Paul says, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory: but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem other better than themselves.” How far in a political election would a candidate get if he allowed that injunction? He would be defeated at the beginning. But the truth of the matter is they that run for office go out for self. Therefore, it is wrong for Christians to hold or run for office.


In Rom. 13: 1, Paul says, “Let every soul he subject to the higher powers, for the powers that be are ordained of God.” Some try to believe, from the import of this Scripture, that they are duty hound to obey everything that is commanded by civil powers. But it must be agreed that this scripture is conditional; the conditions are not stated but implied. For there are certain things that civil powers commend us to do that the Lord says not do.

So, unless we accept this command as conditional, we will have scriptures contradicting. We must be subject unto the higher powers until the higher powers contradict the laws of God. Then we must be subject to the divine law. We might put it like this:  God has sovereign authority. He has delegated certain authority into the hands of civil powers. This is delegated authority. Delegated authority is limited by sovereign authority. So long as the delegated authority is in keeping with the sovereign, we may obey the delegated authority. But should the delegated authority command something that would be a violation of the sovereign, then we are commanded to obey the sovereign. In Acts 5:29, we have an example of this thought. Here the delegated authority made a command that, had it been obeyed, would have violated the sovereign. Christ, the sovereign authority, commanded the apostles to preach the gospel (Matt. 28: 18,19). The officers, the delegated authority, commanded the apostle not to preach the gospel. What did they do? Peter said, “We ought to obey God rather than man.” This explains the question. When the two authorities conflict, always obey the sovereign, which is God’s.

There are some things that we are commanded to render unto these worldly governments found in Romans 13:7. Paul says, “Render therefore unto all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.”

(1)   Tribute or “taxes” (Wilson’s Emph. Diag.). We Christians must render taxes unto the civil powers. We can do that and not violate the divine law. Therefore, we are commanded to do it. According to Romans 13, we Christians pay our taxes for the protection that we get under civil powers. So, when someone who is unlearned on this question makes the wild statement that, because we do not fight, we should not have the government’s protection, I tell them that we deserve that, since we pay our taxes for it, According to Romans 13:4-7. We are walking in the footsteps of our Savior, when we render tribute to the higher powers, for we find in Matt. 17:27, where Jesus commanded his followers to pay tribute or custom. Also, in Matt. 22:21, when they came unto him to tempt him concerning the tribute money, Christ took the coin and asked them, “Whose is the image and superscription?  They say unto him Caesar’s.  Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, but unto God the things that are God’s.”  This just what Paul commands. We render unto the rulers their money with their image. thereon, but we render ourselves unto God because we are created in his image. And Paul commands us to “Present our bodies unto God” (Rom. 12:1).

(2) “Custom to whom custom.” –  Custom “is a duty to a prince or king on the importation or exportation of goods” (Crudens Concordance). It is used interchangeably with tribute in Matt. 17:25. We can see by this that it is closely related to tribute. In fact, it is tribute but is somewhat of a salestax.

(3) “Fear unto whom fear” or, as Moffatt renders it, “Respect to whom respect is due.” We are commanded to respect or fear the higher powers. I Pet. 2: 13,14, “Submit yourselves unto every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well.”

(4) “Honor to whom honor- We as Christians are commanded to honor those in office, those who have the rule over us. “Honor the king” (I Pet. 2: 17). If we honor them and do all we can toward scripturally obeying them, Paul says we, too, “will have praise of the same” (Rom. 13:3).


So let us, as members of the kingdom of Christ, ever strive to do that which will meet with the approval of the great king. For at last he shall descend from heaven with “his mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance” upon all the ungodly and disobedient. Then, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psa. 9: 17). But while this old earth is melting with fervent heat and the flames of God’s wrath are leaping high, this blood-bought kingdom shall spread its wings, as it were, to ascend to meet the Lord, bearing on its pinions every faithful citizen, to live forever with the great and mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, “Even so come, Lord Jesus, Amen!”

[This was published originally in the Old Paths Pulpit A Book of Sermons and Essays 1945]


 Recommended articles:

Introducing the Church of Christ – Ronny Wade

God’s Sevenfold Unity – Jerry Cutter

Repentance – J. W. McGarvey


The Ancient Faith website is a thematic collection of scholarly yet simple Bible essays and sermons, many of which were composed by Restoration preachers such as J.W. McGarvey, Moses Lard, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Campbell. These courageous men of faith through hours of Bible investigation studied themselves out of denominationalism, asking for “the old paths” (Jer. 6:16) and seeking to return to “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). We hope you will join with these men in their fervent plea to restore “the ancient order,” “the ancient gospel” or, as it was sometimes called, “the ancient faith.”