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Least in the Kingdom
A Sermon by Rosco Brong

"Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least command­ments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:19.)

Ultra-democratic and communistic propaganda has so warped the minds of some Christians that they imagine a leveling off of char­acter, a blotting out of individual differences, in the future life. Con­trary to all Bible teaching, they suppose that all Christians will be of equal rank or station in the world to come. But in our text Jesus plainly tells us that one will be least and another great in His kingdom.

Furthermore, our position in that kingdom will not necessarily corre­spond to our position here and now. "But many that are first shall be last; and the last first." (Mark 10:31; read also Mark 10:35-45.)

Everlasting Kingdom
The kingdom referred to in our text is first the reign ol the saints with Christ for 1,000 years as stated in Revelation 20:4, 6, and then their "reign for ever and ever" as stated in Revelation 22:5. If we are saved by God's grace, children of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:8; Galatians 3:26), then we are heirs of God (Galatians 4:7) and of His "everlasting kingdom." (II Peter 1:11.)

Certainly our position in that ever­lasting kingdom of the heavens will be assigned us by the King Himself: but He tells us in advance how we can insure for ourselves a great or a least position. We need break only ONE of His LEAST commandments, and teach men so by our example and pre­cept, to be called LEAST in His kingdom.

Commandments of Jesus include not only the words from His own lips, but also the law and the prophets {Matthew 6:17) and all the holy scripture, including Old and New Testaments. See I Corinthians 14:37; II Timothy 3:16; II Peter 3:16; Revelation 22:18, 19.

Opinions will differ as to which commandments are most important and which are least, but with only a brief glance at some of the command­ments in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-7:27), from which our text is taken, let us note some of the Chris­tians who are reserving for themselves least positions for eternity:

Unhappy Christians
Nine times at the beginning of this sermon Jesus pronounces His true disciples "blessed" or "happy," and then commands (5:12): "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad." Unhappy Christians are little Christian­s, by Bible standards, and though this is be one of our Lord's least command­ants, they shall surely be called least in His kingdom.

Hidden Lights
In 5:13-16, under the figures of salt and light, Jesus commands His people to maintain a vital Christian testimony. Comparing this passage with Revelation 1:20, a see that this involves membership in a New Testament church, and prerequisite to this (Matthew 28:19) is scriptural baptism.

Millions of Christians, including many accounted great in this world, will be least in the kingdom because they have neglected or refused to put their lamp on the Lord's lampstand, keeping it instead under a bushel of man's measure.

Even to enter the kingdom of heaven requires a righteousness exceeding that the scribes and Pharisees (5:17-20) or of modern interpreters or religious teachers of the same stripe, who think they can improve upon God's word by substituting human reason or tradition.

Jehoiakim of Judah (Jeremiah 36) was no worse in his day than the modern apostles of infidelity posing as ministers of Christ but devoting their lives to cutting up and destroying the message of God's written word. And though you be a true heir of the kingdom, just enough infidelity to reject one of the King's least commandments is all you need to guarantee yourself at least position when you are bought to account before Him.

Less serious crimes than murder can bring temporal judgments upon a disci­ple of Jesus, He tells us in 5:21-26, and an offering to God must await reconcilia­tion to a brother. How many quarrelsome Christians, contentious and contemptuous with their brethren, are preparing themselves to occupy least positions in the kingdom!

Physical act or lustful look, adultery carnal or spiritual, even adultery legally sanctioned (5:27-32) — all are forbidden by Jesus. The practice is fashionable and the commandment is taken lightly. Surely this is far from the least of God's commandments, and surely lustful tempters in and leerers at modern un­dress can obtain no more than the least place in the kingdom of God.

"Swear not at all" — that is, in ordi­nary conversation (5:33-37). This has no reference to solemn formal assertions or legal oaths, but Christians who habitu­ally mix swear-words and bywords in their conversation will find their appro­priate level in the coming kingdom.

In 5:38-48 we have a series of com­mands so contrary to human nature that most commentators and preachers insist that Jesus could not possibly have meant what He said, or if He did the commands are not at all practical. Nevertheless Jesus did mean what He said, and whether practical or not for this life, these commandments too must be accepted and obeyed if we would rise above the least in His kingdom.

Alms, prayers, and fasting are men­tioned in 6:1-18 as samples of religious service to be rendered unto God, with commands to avoid the praise of men in order to obtain the rewards of God. Religious show-offs have their rewards in this life: in the life to come they will be called least in the kingdom.

Just as there is a difference between a miser's hoard and a wise investment, so there is a difference between worldly accumulation and heavenly treasures. We must make up our minds whether to keep our eyes on eternal gain or perhaps lose all in vain attempts to serve two masters. We can make no sound invest­ment in eternity while still trying to hold on to the things of this world.

After this uncompromising call to commit our all to God comes the assur­ance that He will take proper care of those who seek first His kingdom. (6: 25-34.) Christians who care so little for God's kingdom that they will not risk every­thing for it without worry can expect to be called the least in that kingdom.

The judgment forbidden in 7:1-5 is the judgment of the hypocrite who seeks to forget or to distract attention from his own fault by condemning someone else. He will be judged as he judges, and if he has part in the kingdom it will be as one of the least.

"Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." (7:6.) The good gifts and treasures which God has put in our hands are not to be wasted on hateful dogs and mud-bound hogs, So after all we are to exercise some judgment in disposing of our Lord's goods, ministering first to "the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10) and then to all men as we have opportunity. If this is a least commandment, it to still a commandment.

Commands to pray (7:7-12) are cou­pled with promises or assurances that persistent prayer will be answered. Prayer is described as an asking, a seeking, a knocking, and a doing. The so-called golden rule is tied to the propo­sition that the Father will give good things to them that ask Him. Therefore we are to do to others as we wish them to do to us: this is one way of asking God for good things for ourselves. Christian slackers in prayer will re­main little Christians here and least hereafter.

In 7:13-20 Jesus commands earnest but discriminating effort to enter through the narrow gate. There are two gates, two ways, true prophets and false proph­ets professing to point out the way, good trees and bad. Christians heedless to the warnings of Jesus, heedless to their responsibilities, heedless to the nature of fruit borne, if they find the way to life will yet be least in the kingdom.

Finally (7:21-27), Jesus declares that the test of true discipleship is not mere lip-service, but doing the will of God. And the will of God is not to be found in the traditions of men, in the supposed light of human reason, in the presump­tions of religions hierarchies or popular theologians, "neo-orthodox" or otherwise. No: the will of God Is to be found in the words of Jesus: "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and does them, I shall liken him to a wise man . . ." (7:24.)

Of course the wise man does not first become wise by building on the rock, but builds on the rock because he is wise, though his wisdom may grow with the building. Even so, we do not "do," obey, or put into practice the words of Jesua in order to become His disciples, but because we are such. That is, our doing or not doing His words is the test and evidence of whether our lives are founded on Him, the Rock of Ages, or on the shifting sands of human religions.

Now, according to our text, if we break only one of His least command­ments, and teach other men to do like­wise, we shall be called least in His king­dom. What then shall be said of the pro­fessed Christian who says, "Lord, Lord," but habitually disobeys the words of Jesus? He is like a foolish man build­ing on the sand: he is no true disciple at all.

[From AAB, October 29, 1971, pp. 1 & 3. - jrd]

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