THE RELEVANCE OF JESUS’ TEACHING IN MATTHEW 6:10 FOR THE PROMOTION OF GOD’S KINGDOM AMONG THE METHODIST FAITHFUL IN CALABAR
1.1 Background to the Study
The theme of the kingdom of God spreads across the scriptures, and is the center around which the characters, key players and actions are woven. The whole scriptural drama becomes more interesting as one discovers that the struggle is between two kingdoms: the kingdom of God (light) and the kingdom of Satan (darkness).
This struggle did not exist from the beginning but came as a result of the disobedience of the first man that lived (Adam) through whom his God-given dominion was ceded to Satan. Right from that time, God has been restoring man to his former state and position of dignity and dominion.
As a means of effecting the restoration of this kingdom, God demonstrated the principle of using the particular to get the general in His choice of Israel. Not only did He bless patriarch Abraham, He also promised to bless all nations through him (Gen 12:3).
In the New Testament, Jesus, the seed of Abraham, came with the message of restoration of that kingdom. That was His priority. It is not surprising therefore, that the kingdom of God is mentioned sixty five (65) times and the kingdom of heaven thirty one (31) times in the New Testament, making a total of ninety six (96) times.
When He healed the sick, Jesus was proclaiming the kingdom; while casting out demons, He was enforcing the kingdom; when He forgave the write-offs in the society, He was showing the world the pattern of the kingdom; even after His resurrection, He was preaching the kingdom. Most of His parables were put forth to demonstrate the pattern of the kingdom.
Not only did Jesus declare the kingdom, He taught His followers to enhance it in their prayer. When they asked Him to teach them how to pray, He gave them the model of prayer, popularly known as The Lord’s Prayer. The second petition in this Pater Noster(Our Father) is very didactic: “Thy kingdom come” (Matt 6:10). The third is equally of interest: “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10).
This simple yet weighty section of the Lord’s Prayer has received ample attention, as a result of which – as is almost always the case with familiar portions of the scripture – divergent views have emerged, especially as to the timing of the kingdom requested. Whether Jesus was referring to an imminent kingdom or one that had already come with His first advent, are the questions that beg for attention upon a critical reflection on this verse.
It is in the spirit of this concern that the imperative for an inquiry of this nature rests. The implications of this prayer, be they immediate or futuristic, are in this work considered in the light of the whole scriptures, with greater attention to the discourses on the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven, as found in the New Testament.
Again, whatever position one maintains pertaining to the timing of the kingdom, the role of the church cannot be overemphasized, seeing that Jesus, no longer present in the church bodily, left her with the mandate to proclaim and enforce this same kingdom. This necessitated a critical look at the role of the church in proclaiming and advancing the kingdom. Here lies the background of this study.
1.2 Statement of Problem
In Matthew 6:10, Jesus projected the urgency, priority, need and pattern for the promotion of the kingdom of God, which many have either not understood or failed to heed. The fact that many Methodist congregations in Calabar are satisfied with their beautifully adorned church buildings and are not interested in church planting, is an indication that they have not understood the urgency communicated in that verse. The low level of penetration of Methodism in Cross River State can largely be traceable to this. Meanwhile, some Methodists prefer to travel several kilometres to a congregation of their choice, leaving congregations that are in their neighbourhood. In this is seen lack of understanding that the kingdom of God covers the whole earth, the promotion of which is to begin wherever believers find themselves.
Another serious problem is the fact that most Methodists in Calabar are of Akwa Ibom origin; many of them have divided loyalty, while some pay more loyalty to their ‘home’ churches in Akwa Ibom than where they have their membership in Calabar. It is not uncommon to hear some of them say that they came to Calabar for business, not for church. With this mentality, such people give little or no attention to kingdom expansion matters, whereas the will of God, according to Jesus, is to be done “On earth as it is in heaven,” which places every believer in a position of seeking the kingdom wherever he/she finds himself on earth.
It is also unfortunate that, when most Methodist congregations had opportunity to purchase land for church building, they did not consider acquiring enough property for other avenues of kingdom expansion like schools, hospitals etc. If ever they did, it did not reflect in their acquisition of property. That is why Methodist Church cannot boast of even one missionary secondary school in the whole of Cross River State. This situation robs the church of a vital avenue of kingdom expansion which is investment in mission schools.
The above noted problems, in addition to many people’s wrong view of episcopacy, flow of money from the grassroots to the conference, multiplicity of committees and meetings, and more emphasis on academics and less on spirituality in theological training portray that the church has either forgotten or is ignoring the urgency, priority, need and pattern for promoting the kingdom of God among men. These problems necessitated this research.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The major objectives of this study were to:
- Exegete the concept of the kingdom of God in the scriptures and relate it to Methodist Church Nigeria, Diocese of Calabar today;
- Consider the implication of the fact that the kingdom of God is already here but not yet realized in its fullest manifestation to Methodist Church Nigeria, Diocese of Calabar;
iii. Consider in what ways Methodist Church Nigeria, Diocese of Calabar is at present perpetuating the kingdom of God on earth;
- Suggest ways through which Methodist Church Nigeria, Diocese of Calabar can better promote the kingdom of God within Cross River State and beyond;
- Encourage Methodist Church Nigeria as a whole to be resilient in promoting the kingdom of God in Nigeria.
The researcher made use of both descriptive and contextual exegetical methods. The former was employed to describe the present situation in Methodist Church Nigeria, Diocese of Calabar in relation to the subject matter, while the latter attempted exegesis of the New Testament verse from which the subject matter was drawn, with a view to deriving the meaning of the text both in its immediate and secondary contexts. Methods of data collection included primary sources, which included interview of some Ministers and members in Calabar, and secondary sources which included books, journals, newspapers, published and unpublished materials and information from the internet.
1.5 Scope and Limit of Study
This work was out to describe the present situation and understanding of the Methodist faithful in Nigeria with regards to the teaching of Jesus Christ on the Kingdom of God. However, for the sake of specificity, the scope was limited to Calabar, which is made up of Calabar Municipality and Calabar South Local Government Areas. Again, the use of the kingdom in this work was limited to the physical manifestation of the reign of God in the now, rather than an ethical dimension. This limitation helped the researcher to be focused and avoid ambiguity.
1.6 Significance of Study
The significance of this study lies in the following:
- In the face of moral perversity and crises which most times have religious undertones, the Church in Nigeria will find in this work areas that, if properly addressed, will equip her in her quest to propagate the gospel and remain relevant to the society.
- The work will contribute to the ongoing debate on the extent to which the Church should be involved in social matters like politics, work ethics, etc.
- It will also be of immense help to others who may be researching in similar topics, while serving as a precursor to further studies.
1.7 Definition of Terms
To aid clarity and easier understanding, the key words and concepts in the thesis title need to be defined.
- Relevance is the noun form of the adjective relevant, which is defined by the Longman Dictionary of Current English as “directly relating to the subject or problem being discussed or considered.”
- Kingdom is defined by the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (New 8th Edition) as “an area controlled by a particular person or where a particular thing or idea is important”; the Kingdom of Godis defined by Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary as “Concept of God’s kingly or sovereign rule, encompassing both the realm over which rule is exerted, and the exercise of authority to reign.” In this work, the term shall be used to denote a situation where God’s will is known by man, who consequently lives with the consciousness of His presence, attracting His blessings in every sphere of life. It shall also be seen in the light of the
- Methodist Church Nigeria: According to the Constitution of Methodist Church Nigeria 2006, Methodist Church Nigeria is “That part of the World Methodism which in 1962 was constituted an autonomous Methodist Church whose governing body is the Nigeria Conference.”
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