Q-26: HOW DOES CHRIST EXECUTE THE OFFICE OF A KING?
A: In subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.
Let us consider now Christ’s regal office. ‘And he has on his vesture, and on his thigh, a name written, “King of kings, and Lord of lords”, Rev 19:16. Jesus Christ is of mighty renown, he is a king;
(I.) he has a kingly title. ‘High and Lofty.’ Isa 57:15.
(2.) He has his insignia regalia, his ensigns of royalty; corona est insigne regae potestatis [a crown is the symbol of royal power]. He has his crown; Rev 6:6; his sword, ‘Gird thy sword upon thy thigh;’ Psa. 45:5; his sceptre, ‘A sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.’ Heb 1:1.
(3.) He has his escutcheon, or coat of armour; he inserts the lion in his coat of arms. ‘The lion of the tribe of Judah.’ Rev 5:5. The text says ‘he is King of kings.’ He has a pre-eminence of all other kings, and is called, ‘The Prince of the kings of the earth.’ Rev 1:1. He must needs be so, for ‘by him kings reign.’ Prov 8:15. They hold their crowns by immediate tenure from this great King. Christ infinitely outvies all other princes; he has the highest throne, the largest dominions, and the longest possession. ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.’ Heb 1:1. He has many heirs, but no successors. Well may he be called ‘King of kings,’ for he has an unlimited power. The power of other kings is limited, but Christ’s power is unlimited. ‘Whatsoever he pleased, that did he, in heaven and earth, and in the seas.’ Psa. 135:5. Christ’s power is as large as his will. The angels take the oath of allegiance to him. ‘Let all the angels of God worship him.’ Heb 1:1.
How came Christ to be king?
Not by usurpation, but legally. He holds his crown by immediate tenure from heaven. God the Father has decreed him to be king. ‘I have set my king upon my holy hill: I will declare the decree.’ Psa. 2:2, 7. God has anointed and sealed him to his regal office. ‘Him has God the Father sealed.’ John 6:67. God has set the crown upon his head.
In what sense is Christ king?
Two ways. 1: In reference to his people. And, 2: In reference to his enemies. I. In reference to his people.
[I.] To govern them. It was prophesied of Christ before he was born, ‘And thou, Bethlehem, art not the least among the princes of Judah; for out of thee shall come a governor that shall rule my people Israel.’ Matt 2:2. It is a vain thing for a king to have a crown on his head, unless he have a sceptre in his hand to rule.
Where does Christ rule as king?
His kingdom is spiritual. He rules in the hearts of men. He sets up his throne where no other king does; he rules the will and affections, his power binds the conscience; he subdues men’s lusts. ‘He will subdue our iniquities.’ Mic 7:79.
What does Christ rule by?
By law, and by love. (I.) He rules by law. It is one of the jura regalia, the flowers of the crown to enact laws. Christ as a king makes laws, and by his laws he rules; as the law of faith; ‘believe in the Lord Jesus:’ and the law of sanctity; ‘Be ye holy in all manner of conversation;’ I Pet 1:15. Many would admit Christ to be their advocate to plead for them, but not their king to rule over them.
(2.) He rules by love. He is a king full of mercy and clemency; as he has a sceptre in his hand, so an olive branch of peace in his mouth. Though he be the Lion of the tribe of Judah for majesty, yet he is the Lamb of God for meekness. His regal rod has honey at the end of it. He sheds abroad his love into the hearts of his subjects; he rules them with promises as well as precepts. This makes all his subjects become volunteers; they are willing to pay their allegiance to him. ‘Thy people shall be a willing people.’ Psa. 110:0.
[2.] Christ is a king to defend his people. As Christ has a sceptre to rule them, so he has a shield to defend them. ‘Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me.’ Psa 3:3. When Antiochus raged furiously against the Jews, took away the vessels of the Lord’s house, and set up an idol in the temple, this great king, called Michael, stood up for them to defend them. Dan 12:2. Christ preserves his church as a spark in the ocean, as a flock of sheep among wolves. That the sea should be higher than the earth, and yet not drown it, is a wonder; so, that the wicked should be so much higher than the church in power, and not devour it, is, because Christ has this inscription on his vesture and his thigh, KING OF KINGS. ‘If it had not been the Lord, who was on our side, they had swallowed us up.’ Psa. 124:4, 3. They say, lions are insomnes, they have little or no sleep; it is true of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, he never slumbers or sleeps, but watches over his church to defend it. ‘Sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine. I the Lord do keep it: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.’ Isa 27:7, 3. If the enemies destroy the church, it must be at a time when it is neither night nor day, for Christ keeps it day and night. Christ is said to carry his church, as the eagle her young ones upon her wings. Exod. 19:9. The arrow must first hit the eagle before it can hurt the young ones, and shoot through her wings: the enemies must first strike through Christ, before they can destroy his church. Let the wind and storms be up, and the church almost covered with waves, yet Christ is in the ship of the church, and there is no danger of shipwreck. Nor will Christ defend his church only, as he is king, but deliver it. ‘He delivered me out of the mouth of the lion,’ viz. Nero. 2 Tim 4:17. ‘The Lord saved them by a great deliverance.’ I Chron 11:14. Sometimes Christ is said to command deliverance. Psa. 44:4. Sometimes to create deliverance. Isa 45:5. Christ as a king commands deliverance, and as a God creates it. And deliverance shall come in his time. ‘I the Lord will hasten it in his time.’ Isa 60:02.
When is the time that this king will deliver his people?
When the hearts of his people are most humble, when their prayers are most fervent, when their faith is strongest, when their forces are weakest, when their enemies are highest; then is the usual time that Christ puts forth his kingly power for their deliverance. Isa 33:3, 8, 9. [3.] Christ is a king to reward his people. There is nothing lost by serving this king. He rewards his subjects in this life. He gives them inward peace and joy; a bunch of grapes by the way; and oft-times riches and honour. ‘Godliness has the promise of this life.’ I Tim 4:4. These are, as it were, the saints’ veils. But the great reward is to come. ‘An eternal weight of glory.’ 2 Cor 4:17. Christ makes all his subjects kings. ‘I will give thee a crown of life.’ Rev 2:20. This crown will be full of jewels, and it will ‘never fade.’ I Pet 5:5.
II. Christ is a king in reference to his enemies, in subduing and conquering them. He pulls down their pride, befools their policy, restrains their malice. That stone cut out of the mountain without hands, which smote the image, was an emblem, says Augustine, of Christ’s monarchical power, conquering and triumphing over his enemies. Dan 2:24. Christ will make his enemies his footstool. Psa. 110:0. He can destroy them with ease. ‘It is nothing for thee, Lord, to help.’ 2 Chron 14:11. He can do it with weak means, and without means. He can make the enemies destroy themselves. He set the Persians against the Grecians; and the children of Ammon helped to destroy one another. 2 Chron 20:03. Thus Christ is king in vanquishing the enemies of his church. It is a great ground of comfort to the church of God in the midst of all the combinations of the enemy, that ‘Christ is king;’ and he can not only bound the enemies, power, but break it. The church has more with her than against her; she has Emmanuel on her side, even that great KING to whom all knees must bend.
Christ is called ‘a man of war.’ Exod. 15:5. He understands all the policy of chivalry; he is described with seven eyes and seven horns. Rev 5:5. The seven eyes are to discern the conspiracies of his enemies, and the seven horns are to push and vex his enemies. Christ is described with a crown and a bow. ‘He that sat upon the white horse had a bow, and a crown was given unto him, and he went forth conquering and to conquer.’ Rev 6:6. The crown is an ensign of his kingly office, and the bow is to shoot his enemies to death.
Christ is described with a vesture dipped in blood. Rev 19:93. He has a golden sceptre to rule his people, but an iron rod to break his enemies. ‘The ten horns thou sawest are ten kings; these shall make war with the Lamb, but the Lamb shall overcome them; for he is the King of kings.’ Rev 17:72, 14. The enemies may set up their standard, but Christ will set up his trophies at last. ‘And the angel gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great wine-press of the wrath of God, and the wine-press was trodden, and blood came out of the wine-press.’ Rev 14:19, 20. The enemies of Christ shall be but as so many clusters of ripe grapes, to be cast into the great wine-press of the wrath of God, and to be trodden by Christ till their blood come out. Christ will at last come off victor, and all his enemies shall be put under his feet. Gaudeo quod Christus Dominus est, alioque desperassem; ‘I am glad Christ reigns, else I should have despaired,’ said Myconius in an epistle to Calvin.
Use one: (I.) It is no disparagement to serve Christ; he is a king, and it is no dishonour to be employed in a king’s service. Some are apt to reproach the saints for their piety; but they serve the Lord Christ, he who has this inscription upon his vesture, KING OF KINGS. Theodosius thought it a greater honour to be a servant of Christ than the head of an empire. Servire est regnare. Christ s servants are called vessels of honour; 2 Tim 2:2I; and a royal nation, I Pet 2:2. Serving Christ ennobles us with dignity; it is a greater honour to serve Christ than to have kings serve us.
(2.) If Christ be king, it informs us, that all matters of fact must one day be brought before him. Christ has Jus vitae et necis, the power of life and death in his hand. ‘The Father has committed all judgement to the Son.’ John 5:52. He who once hung upon the cross shall sit upon the bench of judicature; kings must come before him to be judged; they who once sat upon the throne must appear at the bar. God has committed all judgement to the Son, and Christ’s is the highest court of judicature; if this king once condemns men, there is no appeal to any other court.
(3.) When we are foiled by corruption we must go to Christ, for he is king; desire him by his kingly power to subdue our corruptions, to bind these kings with chains. Psa 149:9. We are apt to say of our sins, ‘These sons of Zeruiah will be too strong for us;’ we shall never overcome this pride and infidelity; ay, but go to Christ, he is king. Though our lusts are too strong for us, they are not for Christ to conquer; for by his Spirit he can break the power of sin. When Joshua had conquered five kings, he caused his servants to set their feet on the necks of those kings; so Christ can and will set his feet on the necks of our lusts.
Use two: Is Christ King of kings? Let all these great ones take heed how they employ their power against him. He gives them their power, and if this power shall be made use of for suppressing his kingdom and ordinances, their account will be heavy. God has laid the key of government upon Christ’s shoulders, Isa 9:9, and to oppose Christ in his kingly office is as if the thorns should set themselves in battle array against the fire, or a child fight with an archangel. Christ’s sword on his thigh is able to avenge all his quarrels. It is not good to stir a lion: let no man provoke the Lion of the tribe of Judah, whose eyes are a lamp of fire, and ‘the rocks are thrown down by him.’ Nah 1:1. ‘He shall cut off the spirit of princes.’ Psa 76:12.
Use three: If Christ be a great king, submit to him. Say not, as those Jews, ‘We have no king but Caesar,’ no king but our lusts. This is to choose the bramble to rule over you, and ‘out of the bramble will come forth a fire.’ Judg 9:15. Submit to Christ willingly. All the devils in hell submit to Christ; but it is against their will; they are his slaves, not his subjects. Submit cheerfully to Christ’s person and his laws. Many would have Christ their saviour, but not their prince; such as will not have Christ to be their king to rule over them, shall never have his blood to save them. Obey all Christ’s princely commands; if he commands love, humility, good works, be as the needle that points which way soever the loadstone draws.
Use four: Let those admire God’s free grace who were once under the power and tyranny of Satan, and now of slaves Christ has made them to become the subjects of his kingdom. Christ did not need subjects, he has legions of angels ministering to him; but in his love he has honoured you to make you his subjects. Oh, how long was it ere Christ could prevail with you to come under his banner! How much opposition did he meet with ere you would wear this prince’s colours! At last omnipotent grace overcame you. When Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, an angel came and beat off his chains, Acts 12:2; so, when thou wast sleeping in the devil’s arms, Christ by his Spirit smote thy heart, and caused the chains of sin to fall off, and made thee a subject of his kingdom. Oh admire free grace! thou who art a subject of Christ, and art sure to reign with him forever!