Q. Isn't God the Father already Lord over all things? How can the Son also be King over all things?
A. The Lord Jesus Christ was given power and authority over all things upon the completion of his great mediatorial task, purchasing the salvation of His people by his atonement at the cross, and rising victoriously from the dead at his resurrection (Matt. 28.18). As a member of the Godhead, He already had the same power and authority as God; but in the economic and mediatorial relationship between Father and Son, the Father gave all such authority to the Son as a reward for the great work which he had accomplished.
Q. What difference does this doctrine make practically?
A. There is great practical benefit from rightly understanding that Christ is King over all things. In Ephesians, Paul teaches us that Christ is "Head over all things to the church" (Eph. 1.22). In other words, the purpose of Christ's kingship over all is to rule all things for the good of His people, that is, the church. We can rest confident in the knowledge that no-one and no thing can thwart Christ's purpose to sanctify, protect and prosper His church, even in the midst of an unbelieving and hostile world.
Q. Isn't Jesus Christ King over the church only? How can He be a kingly mediator over all people and things, when He is only mediator for the church?
A. It is true that Christ is a mediator between God and His people alone. But it is also true that to accomplish that great mediatorial purpose, the salvation of his people, the church, it was necessary that He be given all authority and power in heaven and in earth so that nothing could separate His people from Him. Hence, God the Father appointed the Son to be King over the entire universe.
The frequently asked questions below are adapted from Pastor Alexander McLeod's Sermon "Messiah: Governor of the Nations of the Earth." Access the whole sermon here.
Q. “The distinction between the church and the state cannot be supported, if the kingdom of Jesus includes both; but in opposition to his own declaration, “my kingdom is not of this world;” These distinct Societies would be blended together to their mutual injury and destruction.”
A. Note the following observations that answer this question.
1. “Christ’s kingdom,” whether as understood of the visible church, or of the nations, “is not of this world.” Both are in the world. Both are ruled by him on earth. His authority is, however, from above; it is paramount to all earthly power, and for the exercise of it, no creature has a right to call him to an account. This text [John 18:36.] confirms the doctrine of Christ’s headship over the nations. Furthermore, the prophets of Israel spoke of Jesus as a king, to whom all kings must submit or perish. Daniel, particularly, spoke of him as the destroyer of the great power of the Roman empire. Jesus applied these promises to himself. He was accused therefore of treason against Caesar. Pilate asks him, if he were really a king. He answers in the affirmative, and in such a manner as appalled the heart of Pilate so that he was the more afraid. [Psalms 72:11; Daniel 2:44, 45; Haggai 2:20-23; John 19:6-12]: “My kingdom is not indeed of the earth. My power is from Jehovah. Over all his subjects I rule. To none of them am I accountable; I do not administer the government on worldly principles, or for worldly ends. No power on earth can prevent my kingdom from flourishing.” He who has on his vesture and on his thigh, a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords, never could deny, that his kingdom extended over all the nations of the earth.
2. In the U.S. Government under the federal government, the several States are not mingled with one another; but, with respect to the rest, each exercises a distinct sovereignty, although they all be placed under one common head. And many more examples could be propounded. If we have so many instances among the nations, of two or more distinct societies, owing allegiance to one sovereign, there is no inconsistency in teaching the doctrine of Messiah’s headship over the nations, with teaching that the church is to be kept perfectly distinct from the national society. No; there is no necessity that they should intermingle, even if both should own Jesus as king, and the members of both be the same. One respectable character may be a member of the Missionary Society of New-York, and of the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia; he may preside over each of these institutions, and they continue perfectly distinct.
3. Allegiance to the King of Zion, the Prince of the kings of the earth, would induce the church and state to maintain their respective constitutions. The visible officers, in order to do their duty, must administer the government according to his law; and doing so, political and ecclesiastical concerns will not be intermingled. These societies have proper distinctions in their origin, their end, their officers, and their laws.
Q. “The gift of the nations to the Mediator is useless. They do not acknowledge him as their sovereign, in their constitutions of government; nor do their established authorities serve him. It is dishonoring to God and to Christ, to affirm that Messiah has received power over the nations, since it is evident that the power of the nations is generally exercised in opposition to the mediatorial interest.”
A. It is a lamentable fact, too well substantiated, that the policy of the nations has generally proved hostile to the religion of Jesus. Christians are, however, not much surprised at this, nor are their expectations deceived. No man need hesitate to subscribe to a sentiment so clearly sanctioned with apostolic, yea, divine authority. All nations are put under the feet of the Redeemer; but they do not acknowledge him. Hebrews 2:8. Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. But now, we see not yet all things put under him. It is not apparent to us that they obey the Lord. His revealed will they assuredly oppose. Until the public mind be friendly to the Savior, the expression of the public will, in national acts, cannot be directly intended to honor the Mediator. Christ gave previous notice to his disciples, that the kings of the earth would agree in resisting his authority, for a certain period of time not as yet elapsed [Revelation 17:13, 14, 17].
I proceed to show, that the principle of your question leads to absurdity, and that the assertion you have rested upon it is false.
1. This question would exclude Jehovah from the throne. You say, the nations oppose Christ, therefore he is not their king. You must also grant, if they oppose God, Deity does not rule over them. That all who oppose the Son, oppose the Father, no christian will deny. God himself, therefore, if there be any force in the objection, is not governor among the nations. The scriptures, happily for the saints, teach otherwise. God reigns, let the earth rejoice. All men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father [Psalms 97:1; John 5:23.].
2. The gift is not useless. Men and nations may refuse obedience to Christ, but they cannot withhold it from him. They can violate his law, but they must fulfill his purposes. They all involuntarily serve him. The Father hath said unto him, Rule in the midst of thine enemies: He must therefore reign until all his enemies be scattered [Psalms 110:2]. The usurper and the warrior are his servants. The wicked is the rod of his indignation. With this he can punish and correct; afterwards he can burn it in the fire.
Q. “Christ is the ruler of the nations, but not in the character of Mediator. As God, equal with the Father, his kingdom is universal; but as the Messiah, he is king only in the church.”
A. In order to ascertain the validity of the objection in this question, we must search the scriptures. If the power of Christ over the nations be there represented as belonging to the official character, and as a conferred gift, then it is by good and necessary consequence that it is applied to Him in His official capacity as Mediator.
1. The scriptures attribute to Jesus Christ, as a part of the mediatory character, the government of the nations. It is not denied, that supreme dominion is naturally, and necessarily, the property of the Son as well as of the Father; but it is also ascribed to Messiah as a part of his exaltation. The eternal Son, as God, is not capable of elevation, from a humbled to an exalted state. This honor belongs to him as our Representative. So do all the parts of it; and that his headship over the nations is included in his exaltation, and consequently belonging to the official character, cannot be denied without offering violence to these texts: Ephesians 1:20, 21. He raised him from the dead, to set him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. Philippians 2:9, 10. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him and given him a name, which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth.
2. The authority is represented as a gift made to him, Matthew 28:18. All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Hebrews 2:8. Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. It is only as Mediator, that Christ could receive a gift from the Father. As God, all things were necessarily his own. Blessed Jesus! Hasten the period, when the nations shall acknowledge thee as Messiah, their prince.
Q. “The admission of Christ’s headship over the nations would involve us in a dilemma from which we could not be extricated. If Messiah be King of nations, and Christians have sworn allegiance to him, they cannot consistently be in allegiance to any civil government which is opposed to the kingdom of Christ. No man can serve two masters. And yet the scriptures command every soul to be subject to the higher powers, and teach that the powers that be are ordained of God.” Rom. 13:1.
A. In answering this objection, I propose to show that your difficulty cannot be diminished by embracing any other hypothesis, and that there is really no inconsistency in this doctrine with the command to be subject to the higher powers.
1. The difficulty in which you are involved, by admitting that Messiah rules the nations, will not be diminished by the supposition, that God, essentially considered, governs them. My Christian Brethren, you have sworn allegiance to God as well as to the Redeemer. You are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Those nations that oppose Jesus, oppose the Father also. God and Messiah have precisely the same friends and the same foes. If your allegiance, ye heirs of glory, to the rulers of this earth, induces you to reject the exalted Jesus from the throne of the nations, you must, in order to be consistent, deny the government of the world even to the Father. Yes, in this case, as well as in the former, ye cannot serve two masters.
2. It is impossible such a dilemma could exist, as that you must necessarily renounce obedience to the Prince of the kings of the earth, or transgress the commands of his Heavenly Father. God’s precepts are not contradictory. Whatever he has appointed is in subserviency to the Mediator. He does not approve, he cannot sanction with his authority, that government which is constituted upon immoral principles. To an immoral constitution he never shall require the obedience, the allegiance, the subscription, or the support of his subjects. Such powers as oppose God or Christ, are not ordained of God, in any other sense, than the prince of the power of the air, whom they serve, is; nor does God require that every soul should obey them. The authority which he sanctions, and to which he demands conscientious allegiance, is one which is a terror to them who do evil, and a praise to them who do well [Rom. 13:3]. Submission to such is submission to God; allegiance to governments of a contrary character is rebellion against Heaven.
God is, however, a God of order, and your weapons, Christians, are not carnal. Conformity to the general order of society is a duty, provided this can be done without violating the divine law. If this be all that is meant by submission to government, there is no inconsistency in it, with allegiance to the King of nations. And, perhaps, the conscientious obedience of the most of men to the powers that be, includes no more than this, except what arises from mere selfish principles. You will, however, easily perceive, that if the constituted authorities of the nations are in a state of voluntary subserviency to the Mediator, they must have the approbation of God, and be entitled to your faithful and conscientious support: you will perceive, although they be of a contrary description, that for the sake of peace and order, for the sake of contributing as much as possible to the ease and the happiness of society, and from a spirit of resignation to the Divine Providence, and in order to make legitimate provision for yourselves and your relatives, so much conformity to the prevailing system as is consistent with the oath of your allegiance to Messiah, is a duty conscientiously to be practiced, although very distinct from that obedience for conscience sake, which you would render to the government of your choice, to the authority which has the sanction of the divine approbation. And, I trust, brethren, that you will all perceive that there is no validity in the objections made to the doctrine of this discourse, and will cheerfully join me in prayer, that our dear Savior may speedily be owned as the King of nations as well as the King of Saints.
Q. “The Mediator, as such, is distinct from God. To ascribe to Christ the government among the nations, is to exclude Jehovah from the throne, or reduce him into the state of an idle on-looker.”
A. This subject, as well as others, which treat of the relations of divine persons to one another, must, of necessity, be of difficult exposition or comprehension. In the system of grace, we have a revelation of doctrines which infinitely transcend all the powers of man to discover without its aid: And even, when revealed, although accredited upon the divine testimony, we cannot completely comprehend all the circumstances with which these sublime mysteries are surrounded. There are three distinct persons in the unity of the divine essence. In this there is no absurdity. We believe it upon the divine testimony, but to explain the eternal generation of the Son, or the procession of the Spirit would be impossible. And although we do not undertake to explain precisely the manner in which three divine and distinct persons distinctly will, and distinctly act, in creation, providence and redemption; we are at no loss to show, that the principle contended for in this discourse does not increase the difficulty, or lead to absurdity. Nay, that the objection now under consideration will prove too much if it have any weight, and is consequently to be rejected as involving a manifest inconsistency.
I grant to you, my brethren, that the mediatorial office is distinct, from the essential perfections of the godhead; but you will also grant, that the officer himself is Jehovah. By the assumption of the human nature into a personal union with divinity, though the mediatory character be distinct from the divine, the mediatory person, and the second person of the Trinity is but one and the same. To ascribe to Christ, therefore, in his mediatorial character the government of the nations, is not to introduce a distinct person into the throne, but to declare the character in which the Son of God now rules in the kingdoms of men. This is not liable to your objection. There is no change of person. There is not even an exclusion of character; for all divine attributes belong to Messiah. “Although the word was made flesh, the word was God, and so was and continueth to be both God and man in two distinct natures and one person for ever.” You may as well argue, that a work ascribed to the Son necessarily excludes the agency of the Father and the Holy Spirit; and, consequently, that the first and third persons had nothing to do with creation, as affirm, that the ascription of an act to Messiah excludes the agency of Jehovah.
Again, upon the principle of your objection, the Mediator cannot be the King and Lawgiver of his Church, because this would also exclude Jehovah from among his ransomed sons and daughters. I need not attempt to convince you, that this is not the scriptural view of that subject. God reigns in Zion. You believe that he does. Without any disparagement to the divine character, without supposing Jehovah an idle observer of the church’s concerns, you adopt the principle, that Christ is head of the church, and will not hesitate to join his family in their address to him, “the Lord is our king, the Lord is our lawgiver, he will save us.” Why then will you say, that to proclaim Messiah king of nations would be to thrust Jehovah from his throne. God reigneth universally. Jesus sits at his right hand. He also reigneth over the church, and over the nations.
Christ himself, in order to anticipate every objection of this kind, taught, while on earth, that his agency, even in the state of voluntary abasement into which he entered, did not militate against the constancy of his Father’s working; nor did the Father’s agency about the very same object imply the Son’s idleness—my Father worketh hitherto and I work [John 5:17].