The Gospel narrative and doctrine is a narrative and doctrine based on kingship! From the very beginning of humanity itself God desired for man to be unified in a very particular way, revolving around a very particular objective. This objective was to consecrate the Law of God in the hearts of the people (Hebrews 10:16) through culture, worship, teachings, etc., to become a part of Christ’s body.
In the earliest times of humanity, God’s people were led by prophets, men who were given the revelation of God to warn and steer His people in certain directions to build what God called a “kingdom.” The term ‘kingdom’ is used by God in Genesis to describe the nations birthed from Noah. This is clearly not an arbitrary term being used! The term kingdom presupposes many important aspects of the Christian theology, about the Gospel itself. It is a tragedy that today, especially in America where the term ‘kingdom’ has fallen out of most theological paradigms. There is a sure reason for this, which has to do with the very founding of American nationalism in the late 1700s. Yes indeed, culture can affect theology in many ways.
As soon as God began dictating the Law to His people, He began to state how He would set a king over them. There had been kings already established by other nations, but the prophets had to precede the initiation of a king due to the very nature of God’s Law. Kings are for civil order, and are to carry out the Law of God. But the prophet’s call is to establish this Law, which has everything to do with Holiness! God states in numerous places that His Law is Holy and that it must be handled not as a mere ideal but as the very word and command of God himself. God initiated the prophets for this task, which was a precursor for the calling of the priest!
14 “When you come to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ 15 you may indeed set a king over you whom the LORD your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ 17 And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.
18 “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by[c] the Levitical priests. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.
First Samuel 8:19-22 states that the people of Israel were anxious for a king and so God went ahead and granted them what He already had promised.
1 Samuel 9:16-17:
16 “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince[a] over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have seen[b] my people, because their cry has come to me.” 17 When Samuel saw Saul, the LORD told him, “Here is the man of whom I spoke to you! He it is who shall restrain my people.”
Despite what many American theologians will say regarding kingship in the Old Testament, that “Israel wanted a King but God did not,” kingship is perfectly acceptable to God, is in fact instituted by God, and it is specifically chosen by God, as we have seen in Deuteronomy 17, above. In 1 Samuel we see that God will actually use the king to “restrain” His people. He will be the protector of the covenant!
If God did not want a king for the covenant people of God, he certainly would not have chosen one for them and go as far as anointing this chosen king to uphold the Law of God and protect His people from wickedness.
Monarchy Prophetic to Salvation
The prophets were forerunners for the kings of Israel in more way that just community and Law. The prophets foretold that the Messiah himself would rise out of this God ordained monarchy! (Psalm 132:11, Psalm 89:3-4, 2 Samuel 7:12-13, Isaiah 9:6-7, Lke 1:31-32).
Why would God raise Christ out of a monarchy? There are many reasons, but one reason that tends to stand out in my mind is the fact that God has fashioned New Testament theology around the monarchy!
Christ, in the Gospels, as well as Saint Paul, in Galatians, use royal language to describe salvation. In Galatians 3, Saint Paul says, “And if you are Christ’s then you are heirs of Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” To be an heir is to be an inheritor of royalty! The very calling of us as Gentiles is predestined, as Saint Paul says, to be a part of this Royal kingdom. We are a ROYAL PREISTHOOD, A CHOSEN GENERATION AND A HOLY NATION, as we see in 1 Peter 2:9
As we pray in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, we can see that Christ is calling us to the royalty of the Gospel when we pray, let your “kingdom” come. Here are just a few others out of dozens of quotes using the term “kingdom,” from Christ himself:
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 3:2
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20
Saint Paul, as we saw earlier, uses royal language to draw sharp theological distinction. Here is one of my favorites: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” There is spiritual power in this kingdom that we inherit!
So what that God instituted the monarchy in the Old Testament, and so what that Christ and Saint Paul refer to the Royal lineage of Christ, and prefer to use royal language to describe salvation. How does this support the use of monarchy today, you ask? I think the proper question might be: “how does it not?” The Church has always believed in monarchy. I know of no saints that wrote against the ministry of monarchy, and in fact, I know of many that advocate such a ministry. Saint John Chrysostom, for instance, described the monarchy as the “restrainer” that Saint Paul refers to in 2 Thes. 2:7; the one that protects the Church. Saint Paul says that when that restrainer is taken out of the way (abolished), the apocalypse of the antichrist is in motion and Satan is loosed from his chains to eventually make the apocalypse come to fruition. There are a number of other saints that proclaim this same teaching.
There have been many great kings/emperors who have protected the Church and who have built great ministries. There have also been a number of wicked kings. But this does not mean this ministry is somehow evil. This is like saying that we must abolish the ministry of caring for the orphans because there are many bad parents.
Christianity inevitably results in community and community inevitably results in the need of leadership. If God gives us this community to care for, who is going to make such a bold statement that our leader should not be a Christian? Who is going to say that our leader should not be a godly man for Christ? God instituted the monarchy and neither He nor any of the Saints sought to abolish it! God is one and the oneness of God must be represented in our leadership. Believe it or not our salvation is tied to this very concept of monarchy. If we are going to believe that Christ is King of kings, then we must believe that kings are valid, lest Christ be the “King” of just plain nonsense. The more highly we honor kings the more highly we honor Christ, for He is the King of even these most exalted kings.
How Can Monarchy Apply to America?
Since America is founded on anti-monarchy ideals, we can be sure that, outside of a revolution (sponsored by another country) there will be no way that we would submit to a king. What we can do as Americans to follow in the footsteps of the Fathers is support political candidates and philosophies that support relationship between the Church and the government. A forma relationship must manifest lest our country completely sell out to the newest form of Communism. Spiritual, ethical, political, etc. neutrality is a philosophical impossibility. Christianity, for instance, has key ethics that completely collide with Communism.
Christianity (even within the west) is not only a faith of ceremony, but it is a faith of culture, of worldview. It always has been! For instance, all religions were welcome in first century Rome, in the cultic sense, but not all religions were welcomed into the affairs of the state. First century Christians were persecuted, not for having a personal relationship with Christ and persuading others through conversation and debate, but for becoming a threat to the Graeco-Roman culture at large. The Church never gave up the call to take spiritual dominion over society, and one day in the 4th century an emperor freed the Church and gave her the rite to build the very ministries that we have today. Thank God for Emperor Saint Constantine! Thank God for the Holy Monarchy.