S.M. Baugh

The Arrival of God’s Kingdom

Theologians today often talk about the kingdom of God being “already and not yet.” This is an attempt to express the New Testament’s teaching that the Son of God came to inaugurate the kingdom of God in this world at his incarnation “already” but that he will “not yet” consummate it until he returns at the end of this age. And by “kingdom of God” we mean the new creation, the new heavens and new earth pictured so clearly, for example, in Revelation 21-22. This kingdom being “already” is foundational for describing Christ’s work at his first advent, which has impacted cosmic history to its core.
When was the kingdom of God inaugurated?
To see that the kingdom of God has been inaugurated, take just one aspect of it as an example: the kingship of Jesus Christ over the new creation. By virtue of his work of redemption for his people, all authority in heaven and on earth is his (Matt. 28:18; Col. 2:10, 15) both in this age and in the world to come (Eph. 1:20-22; Phil. 2:9-11) such that he now “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). At Christ’s triumphant ascent to his Father’s right hand in resurrection glory, he took his seat with his Father on his eternal throne (Rev. 3:21), from which life in abundance will flow eternally (John 10:10) as the center of the new creation (Rev. 22:1). This means that all who are united to Christ Jesus by faith in him are themselves caught up into new creation existence already: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17; cf. Eph. 2:10).
However, granted that the kingdom of God is “already” in some important ways, this raises the question of exactly when it was inaugurated. We read in the New Testament, for example, in places which summarize the proclamation of both John the Baptist and Jesus, that the kingdom of God had drawn near in their ministries (Matt. 3:1; 4:17; cf. Luke 10:9, 11). But when was it inaugurated? I had breakfast with the managing editor of Beautiful Christian Life recently, and she asked this excellent question. The following is a brief answer sketching out some key phases.
The King’s Birth
In his book on the Holy Spirit, the English puritan John Owen writes:

We have formerly declared the work of the Holy Spirit in preparing and forming the natural body of Christ. This was the beginning of the new creation.[1]

Owen is referring to the fact that both Matthew and Luke testify that the birth of Christ was effected by the Holy Spirit through the conception of the virgin Mary (Matt. 1:18, 20; Luke 1:35). And it is fair to say that where the Holy Spirit appears in the New Testament, we are dealing with some activity of new creation. And since the kingdom of God is the new creation, the Spirit was bringing in the kingdom of God at the conception and birth of Jesus.
The birth of Christ, then, was a kingdom event. The way to approach this is to observe that the kingdom of God at this point was focused upon the entrance of its messianic king:

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”Luke 1:30-33; cf. Luke 8:28

Read More

How the Divine Armor of the Messiah Becomes Ours

Written by S.M. Baugh |
Saturday, March 25, 2023
One temptation we have in our examination of the armor of God is to get wrapped up in the armor itself and not in the one who gives it to us. As noted, this armor is the Lord’s own which he wore to defeat all his and our enemies in his great conquest of sin and death to ransom us (Rev 5:5, 9). This means that the “armor of light” given to us in Christ is expressed as our faith in him when we “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 13:14) to become “children of the light” (1 Thess 5:5). And the “captain of the Lord’s army” (Josh 5:13–15) has already clothed us with himself in full battle array in our baptism.

Professional athletes were as popular in the ancient world as they are today, even if the sports back then were somewhat different. Wrestling competitions, for example, were held throughout mainland Greece and Asia Minor in various festivals. And winners of these wrestling matches received extraordinary public honors: their exploits were celebrated with statues, friezes, and wall paintings. Thus it would have been impossible for Paul, who lived in Ephesus for over two years (Acts 19:8, 10) to have missed seeing Greek culture’s enthusiasm for victorious wrestlers. This may explain aspects of his curious description of the “armor of God” in Ephesians 6:10–17.
Have you ever noticed that Paul calls our struggle a “wrestling match” (πάλη [pale]) in Ephesians 6:12, yet he describes this match as carried out in full battle armor (πανοπλία [panoplia]) in the previous verse? Paul knew, of course, that wrestlers in his day did not wear much of anything in their matches, much less loads of military gear. Furthermore, soldiers in armor win battles by advancing, not by standing, yet Paul states three times that Christian armor allows us to hold our ground and to “stand” fast in the evil day (vv. 11, 13). “Having done all,” we are to “stand” (Eph 6:13 KJV). What gives? Is Paul mixing his metaphors?
As I stated in my work on Ephesians in Lexham Press’s Evangelical Exegetical Commentary series, I think Paul is portraying the fight facing Christians against “the schemes of the devil” (v. 11) and “against the cosmic forces of this darkness” (v. 12) as a hand-to-hand brawl in which staying on one’s feet—as in a wrestling match—is the only sure way to victory. “Stand fast then!” Paul says (v. 14).
And if the enemy seems too scary to imagine, Paul details the protection which God gives to us, which is the very armor which our hero Jesus wore for his great conquest on the cross (Rev 5:5–10) when he “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them” (Col 2:15). This is why Paul describes the armor of God which we are to put on in terms of the divine armor of Isaiah worn by the Messiah:
He saw that there was no man,and wondered that there was no one to intercede;then his own arm brought him salvation,and his righteousness upheld him.He put on righteousness as a breastplate,and a helmet of salvation on his head. (Isa 59:16–17)
It is worth looking briefly at the different elements of the “panoply of God” (Eph 6:13) which Paul details for us in Ephesians 6:14–17. This armor of God is not only for ancient people but for Christians today.
The Belt
The first part of the armor of God is the belt implied when Paul says, “Belt up your waist with truth” (Eph 6:14). An older translation for “belt up your waist” is to “gird one’s loins” (KJV; NKJV): the loose clothing worn in antiquity was pulled up and tied or belted in preparation for wrestling (Job 38:3, 40:7; cf. 1 Pet. 1:13). Here “truth” acts as the belt for believers, and Paul is reminding us that the truth is found in Jesus (Eph 4:21) and his gospel (Eph 1:13). We belt our waists with truth when we speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15, 25) as the fruit of saving faith (Eph 2:8–10) in the battle which Christ, the righteous warrior of God has won for us (Isa 11:5).
Read More
Related Posts:

Baugh: Words and Things (Part 2)

Written by S. M. Baugh |
Friday, July 15, 2022
Christ’s death was not a death like ours. It was a sacrifice. His body was symbolized in the animals which Abraham cut in two, so that through Christ’s substitutionary death as an “eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12) through the “eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:14) we might enter into an “eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:15). All this is sealed to us with an imperishable promise because the new covenant has been inaugurated now and into all eternity by his “blood of the eternal covenant” (Heb. 13:20).

I corresponded with John Hughes recently and complimented him on a detailed scholarly article he wrote some years ago where he gave a most helpful treatment of Heb. 9:15-22. He mentioned in return that it was disappointing that his work seems to have made no impression on English translations that have appeared subsequently. Let’s look the passage over (going only to v. 18 for time’s sake). I will rehearse the heart of Hughes’s interpretation of Heb. 9:15-18 and zero in on one phrase in particular that I find especially illuminating for accepting his conclusions.
Here is Heb. 9:15-18 in the English Standard Version (ESV), an excellent newer translation, but it does not adopt Hughes’s interpretation. The issue revolves around the translation of one Greek word, diatheke, that occurs several times in these four verses and is translated as either “covenant” or “will” (and are highlighted here):
Heb. 9:15-18: “Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. [16] For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. [17] For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. [18] Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood.”
It seems rather odd that the author of Hebrews should speak of Christ as “mediator of a new covenant” (v. 15) and then switch to discussion of a seemingly unrelated “will” in vv. 16-17. More odd is that the author draws out from his discussion of a “will” in vv. 16-17 a conclusion about covenant inauguration practice in v. 18. Why discuss a last will to make a point about a covenant?
The answer to this last question receives some interesting explanations in the literature, though even the best of them are not convincing. It is true that the Greek word diatheke may legitimately refer to either an OT type of “covenant” or to a “last will and testament.” These are two established meanings of this word.
Read More
Related Posts:

There is a Right Way and a Wrong Way to do Biblical Word Studies

Written by S. M. Baugh |
Saturday, May 28, 2022
I will try to give you some helpful ideas on proper word study method in this series. But the project is mainly about meanings of words and phrases in the Greek NT that may not be evident in today’s popular translations.

Word studies dominate the resources available for Christians. Some are good and some, well, not so good. With all the word pictures, Strong’s numbers, footnotes in translations, study Bibles and more, you would think that there’s nothing more that can be said about word studies in the Bible. I’m going to put a little oar in this massive lake anyway. The lake will be reduced in size a bit by only considering New Testament (NT) and Greek examples since this is my field.
As introduction to the project, let me qualify that “word” studies is shorthand for the study of the meanings of both individual words and phrases. A “phrase” in this context refers to a series of two or more words that do not have independent meaning but mean something as a whole. Let me illustrate with these English examples. The highlighted phrases in these sentences, have composite meanings that are more than the sum of their parts: “Don’t believe him, he’s out to lunch,” “She gave up the ghost,” “They were sent up the river for their crimes.” Substitution of synonyms in these phrases turns them into nonsense: “out to dinner,” “gave up the ghoul,” or “sent up the waterway.”
Read More
Related Posts:

The Armor of God

Written by S.M. Baugh |
Sunday, October 24, 2021
Putting on the armor of God that Christ Himself bore is tantamount to putting “on Christ,” which we have already done when we were baptized “into Him” (Rom. 6:3 ; Gal. 3:27). This is tantamount to telling us to look to Christ in faith for all things. Our faith in Christ informs everything about our daily lives so that we can stand firm in steadily sanctified holy array.

Paul’s exhortation to take up the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10–18 is a favorite passage for many Christians. It is stirring and vivid. It reads like an inspiring call to battle. It inflames the Christian’s heart with language that radiates strength and courage for the warfare we face “in the evil day” (v. 13). Its position at the end of Ephesians makes this passage a reprise of Paul’s earlier teachings in the epistle and a final exhortation before he passes on to a very brief ending to the letter. The exhortation is quite simple: “Stand firm” and “pray.” But this beloved passage has a few striking features that come out with a closer reading, which we will briefly survey here.
The first striking feature of Ephesians 6:10–18 is an unusual term Paul uses for armed warfare. In verse 12, Paul refers to this warfare as “our struggle” (NASB, NIV), rendered as “we wrestle not” or “we do not wrestle” in the KJV and ESV, respectively. In Greek, the word is a noun that refers to a wrestling match. Such matches were commonly conducted in ancient Ephesus and elsewhere as well as in local, regional, and international games such as the Olympics. As is the case today, wrestling matches in the ancient world were not carried out in full military armor or with “flaming darts” (v. 16) and swords (v. 17).
The intriguing question is why Paul refers to our “struggle” as a wrestling match rather than as “warfare” or “combat,” or as a “battle” or “fight,” which are more fitting for a contest in armor. There are several reasons for this.
These attacks take place particularly through malignant teachings to throw Christ’s people off their feet and to take them captive as slaves.
The most important reason Paul says we are in a wrestling match is his repeated exhortation to “stand” or to “stand firm” (vv. 11, 13–14) and to “hold your ground” (v. 13; ESV “withstand”). This is not exactly a complete set of orders for a soldier in battle ranks, who would be expected to advance against an enemy rather than passively waiting to be surrounded, attacked from all sides, and routed. “Prepare buckler and shield, and advance for battle!” (Jer. 46:3, emphasis added). But the Christian’s warfare is more like a wrestling match even if we are clothed with the “armor of God” (Eph. 6:11).
It is true that in the ancient world, battles between heavily armed and armored soldiers often devolved into intense hand-to-hand combat, and the soldier who lost his feet would inevitably perish. He had to “stand fast” and “hold his ground.” Perhaps this explains Paul’s emphasis on our standing, which he accents through repetition in verses 13 and 14: “. . . to stand firm. Stand therefore.” As a result, it shows that Paul is not giving us a calm bit of advice during a pleasant retreat. No, the Apostle is urgently warning and exhorting us on the battlefield in the face of a grim onslaught “in the evil day” (v. 13). Steady . . . steady . . . Stand fast! Hold your ground! Stand! “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand” (v. 11); “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:13–14).
Paul does not give a complete listing of contemporary combat gear. The main elements of armor in the passage are defensive: breastplate, shield, and helmet (with the exception being the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”). Perhaps this fits more appropriately with Paul’s point about the church’s standing firm like armored wrestlers.
Read More

Scroll to top