The Church and the Kingdom: Reflections from E. Stanley Jones

During Adult Ed I read some sentences from E. Stanley Jones’ book Along the Indian Road.  I thought it might be helpful to share those, and a few others, here in print.

Consider this statement which offers a definition of both the “new birth” and the “Church”.

“New birth is bringing a person into the Church, which is the fellowship of those devoted to the Kingdom of God.”

If the Church is anything other than “a fellowship of those devoted to the Kingdom of God” then there is hardly any reason to bring someone into it.  If it is such a fellowship, then they are coming into a whole new world in which they will become completely new persons.

Jones believed that the Kingdom is the Absolute which relativizes all human institutions, even the Church itself.  The Church is always secondary to the Kingdom.  Not all Christians agree:

In the Roman conception, the Kingdom of God and the Church are one.  This we cannot accept.  Suppose we go out saying, “Repent, for the Church is at hand.” People would laugh, as an audience actually did when I said it.  But people do not laugh when you say, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand,” for they feel instinctively that they are confronted with an Absolute. The Church is a means, the Kingdom of God is the end.

And this is what has struck me the most powerfully:

The Church, being relative, must come under the judgment and correction of something higher than itself–the Kingdom of God. Only as it loses its life in obedience to this higher Order does it find its life coming back to itself.  It has authority only as it subits to and embodies this higher authority…

The authority of the Church is judged by one thing–and one thing alone–how much does it serve?  For it is the same for the individual and the corporate group–the greatest among them becomes the servant of all–greatness in authority comes from as a result of dedication to ends beyond itself.

Here is an essential reminder to us, especially as we plant a new branch of Christ’s Church here in Frankfort:

I can be, and am, loyal to my fingertips to a Church which is loyal to the Kingdom of God, which comes under the judgment of the Kingdom, is the instrument and servant of the Kingdom, and which embodies the spirit and life of the Kingdom. But I am disloyal to a Church which is disloyal to the Kingdom by becoming and end in itself.

And finally (for now) this lovely anecdote which give a glimpse of Jones’ heart and character:

When I said to a Hindu audience that I was convertible [open to conversion], one Hindu arose and said, “Yes, but you would be a very hard nut to crack.”  I replied: “Well, I suppose I would be, but not for the reason you think.  It is not superior intelligence, I know that.  The reason probably is that I no longer hold my faith–it holds me.” And I propose to share that faith while there is breath within me.

 

 

 

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