The City of God on Earth, Part 4: The Church Is the Capital of a Whole New World

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Editor’s note: This series is created from a talk given by Wang Yi, a pastor and a leading voice in the house church in China. Wang Yi addressed a group of fellow pastors and church members, challenging them to view the gospel as the coming of the kingdom of God on earth, not just a means of individual salvation. This address was given at a 2014 conference in Hong Kong. Read last week’s post here and check back next week for the rest of the series!

An American congressman once said there are two types of congressmen and women in America: liberals and conservatives. But even among conservative representatives, there are two types: angry conservatives, who are angry because they are conservative; and joyful conservatives, who are joyful because they are conservative. 

In the church we find the same situation; we also have two types of members. Generally speaking, many in the family churches are conservative Christians. In Greek culture, the word for the church was the same as their word for legislature. If someone from the city of Corinthians, for instance, picked up Paul’s letters to the churches there, he would be very surprised to learn the letters were written to the Corinthian churches. He would probably go to the police, because in addition to the legislature they already had in the city, it seemed there was another “legislature.” He might be afraid this new legislature would incite people to overturn the government. In the “church-legislature,” among representatives of the city of God, liberal representatives are like the younger son, and angry conservative representatives are like the older son. We are not only to be conservative, but joyful conservatives: conservative Christians renewed by grace.

Brothers and sisters, this psalm responds to the issues faced by Chinese society. Psalm 46 answers questions about where time has gone. How can we answer the questions Chinese society faces about the passage of time? Time’s passage is a fate the Scriptures sum up as “in the morning it flourishes…in the evening it fades” (Ps. 90:6) and “he comes out like a flower and withers.” (Job 14:2) Psalm 46 tells us the Lord is our dwelling place, that our entire hope and faith is placed on the Lord living in a city, and that “the Lord of hosts is with us.” 

Facing the elapse of time, the death of family members, and the fading away of life reminds me of another Psalm of Zion. Psalm 48 says, in the city God will be our God forever and ever. Another psalm tells us, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.” (Ps. 90:1) Jesus fulfilled the promise and hope of dwelling together with us. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) 

Jesus came among us from the very starting point of time, and all times are in his hands. In Romans we see a response to the fears Chinese society faces about the passage of time: time is “from him and through him and to him.” (Rom. 11:36) Jesus is Immanuel, “God with us.” The dream of God and people living together on earth was realized in Jesus. The Holy Spirit’s coming poured out his salvation on a group of lowly but powerful people who belonged to him. At that moment, the future Jerusalem appeared in the earthly city of Jerusalem. In a spiritual sense, the church became the capital of a whole new world. The church became the city of God. Israelites from every nation under heaven are representatives of the whole earth, representatives of God’s plan to “be exalted in the earth.” (Ps. 46:10) 

I don’t know if we have any co-workers from Chongqing among us today. Chongqing is called a city of mountains; the church in today’s China is a city of mountains. I don’t know if there are any co-workers from Jinan among us. Your city is called a city of fountains, because there are fountains of living water flowing out from under the city; so the churches in each city of China are cities of God where fountains of life flow out from underneath our feet. I don’t know if there are any co-workers from Zigong in Sichuan province with us? Your city is known as a salt city; but the church in each city of China today should be the real city of salt. We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. There must be many co-workers from Beijing here. Your city is called the capital; but the church should be the real capital in each city of China. Psalm 46 is a response to the desire and pursuit of today’s Chinese people toward the major cities.

As cities of God and capitals of the world, the church is found in each city of this world. People’s dreams—of major cities, their comparisons of major and minor cities, and their ambition to build a bigger city—end in the city. Without the gospel (which has already entered and will continue to enter each city in China)—the commission to preach the gospel, to build the city of God, and to expand the Lord’s kingdom, our society will be anxious to build more and bigger cities.