“’That’s My King’: On the Messianic Monarchical Meritocracy Theory and the Justification by Faith Theory”
I am not writing this essay as a specialist in New Testament Studies, but as a critical reader who is trying to make sense of the interesting rapport between the messianic kingship of Jesus and the justification by faith theory. I am a theologian by training. (Perhaps, there is an intellectual decalage between the two theories; we shall see in the subsequent analysis.) However, there was a time in my life, I wanted to become a New Testament scholar. After graduating from seminary, I was accepted into three doctoral programs: University of Aberdeen (Scotland), Bangor University (Wales), and the University of Cape Town (South Africa). I chose to enroll at Bangor University. Thus, I began writing a doctoral dissertation on the concept of “seeing God” in the Gospel of John to obtain a PhD in New Testament Studies, under the supervision of Prof. Catrin H. Williams. After a year and a half of intensive researching and writing, I dropped out of the program to pursue a PhD in Literary Studies at the University of Dallas at Texas. After obtaining the doctoral degree at UTD, I was tempted to go back to complete the degree in New Testament. Nonetheless, I did not pursue this former interest of mine because of the same reason I exited from the program: lack of financial stability. A few years later, I told myself even though I did not complete the PhD in NT, I should at least do a PhD in a related discipline. Thus, I decided to enroll in the PhD program in Systematic Theology and Ethics at the University of Pretoria (South Africa). This degree in theological ethics was close enough to my first love and passion: New Testament Studies. After I finished writing a robust doctoral thesis on an interesting topic in theological anthropology and ethics, I gained the PhD degree in the respective discipline. I celebrated this great accomplishment with my family and friends. Those days have gone; yet my interest in the academic discipline of Biblical Studies remain.
Truthfully, I never abandoned my passion in New Testament Studies. Even though I have written many academic books and articles about the rapport between history, ethics, religion, theology, race, anthropology, and literature. I always try to keep myself informed about the current state of the discipline of New Testament. I do that in various ways: listening to some good podcasts on the subject matter, reading blog posts and articles by experts on Biblical Studies, reading good books by influential writers in the field, and sometimes, I do attempt to engage virtually in meaningful conversations with my friends working in the disciplines of Biblical and Theological Studies.
“Rethinking the Kingship of Jesus and the Gospel of the King”
To fast forward the conversation, in the year 2011, I observed a breakthrough in my understanding of the relationship between the Reformers’ doctrine of justification by faith and the messianic identity and mission of Jesus, as explained in the four Gospels. (For example, N. T. Wright, in many publications, has attempted to bridge this historical and hermeneutical gap between the story of Israel, Jesus’s messiahship, and the Gospel, as could be observed in “Jesus and the Victory of God” (1996), “The New Testament and the People of God” (1992), and the two volumes by the same title: “Paul and the Faithfulness of God” (Parts I and II, published in 2013; Parts III and IV, published in 2013, respectively; other NT thinkers, prior to Wright, have also attempted to perform a reconstructive narrative of the Gospel message in the Gospels and in Paul. N.T. Wright, however, is/has been the most influential figure in contemporary NT scholarship. I did not fully grasp Wright’s 1992 and 1996’s publications and his attempt at historical reconstruction when I was in seminary. It was until after I graduated from seminary in 2006 that I went back to revisit his old claims and new perspectives with a new hermeneutical lens. I knew that my intellectual understanding of Israel’s history, Jesus’s Jewish identity, and the message of the Gospel was evolving and radically transforming. Yet I was not afraid to wear this new pair of glasses to improve my interpretive vision.)
Furthermore, with the publication of two seminal texts on the relationship between the essence of the Christian Gospel and its rapport to the kingship of Jesus—Scott McKnight’s “The King Jesus Gospel,” published in 2011, and N. T. Wright’s “How God Became King,” published in 2012 were game-changing and epoch-making books in the discipline—New Testament studies was set to take a revolutionary hermeneutical turn. Matthew Bates, continuing in the same line of reasoning with Wright and McKnight, was set to bring greater clarity and precision on these matters of great intellectual and hermeneutical concerns, with the publication of two controversial and groundbreaking books: “Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King” (2017), and “Gospel Allegiance: What Faith in Jesus Misses for Salvation in Christ” (2019).
As a result, Pastor Greg Gilbert, a fierce critic among many, in various online essays (see also, (for example, “What is the Gospel?” “Who Is Jesus?), has expressed his own concerns about this “interpretive turn” in contemporary New Testament Studies as well as in contemporary American evangelicalism. He himself is not a New Testament scholar; however, he is a theologian worth reading to for many great reasons. He and others have remarked that this emerging movement is not only challenging centuries of New Testament scholarship; this fresh and radical reading of the Christian salvation and Israel’s story is reversing the Reformers’ justification by faith theory with an alternative concentration on the messianic monarchism of Jesus, what we might call the messianic monarchism theory. Wright, McKnight, and Bates have argued that the Gospel is about paying allegiance to King Jesus, and justification by faith is among the many effects of the Gospel; by contrast, Gilbert gives primacy to the doctrine of justification by faith, the old Reformers’ Gospel theory. For him, the thesis “Jesus is King” is not the Gospel proclaimed by Paul, the Apostles, or the Protestant Reformers. The trinity (Wright, McKnight, and Gates) of the “Jesus is King” theory is indeed shifting the discourse on the subject matter, declaring that the Gospel is about the non-negotiable allegiance to King Jesus against the Reformers’ dictum that the Gospel is about “justification by faith alone.” While the former emphasizes a Christocentric-messianic monarchy Gospel, the latter prioritizes a pistis-centered Gospel. In a recent blog post, Michael Bird helpfully assesses both perspectives on the subject matter.
“The Personal Inquiry: Questions about the King Jesus Gospel”
Moreover, because of my intellectual curiosity, on a recent post written by Bates, I attempted to get some clarity on the subject matter by asking a threefold question:
- Did Jesus “become” King in order to offer salvation to all who would believe in his name and pay allegiance to him as King and Redeemer?
- Did Jesus “the Christ” receive kingship because he makes available salvation to all who would believe in him as “the Christ”–not as “the King”?
- Could it be that the Messiah, even before his enthronement as King upon his exaltation to heaven, preexisted both as the King-Redeemer/Savior-King, and thus eventually fulfilled the dual but inseparable function as King and Savior?
Because I did not get a response for my questions, I decided to do the research myself and answer my own questions (by any means, am I writing as a specialist in New Testament Studies) in the subsequent paragraph below.
I suppose to call Jesus the “King of Israel” would have made some sense to the people of Jesus’ s day because the Jewish people were waiting for a King to function as a political leader and to deliver them from Roman imperialism and colonial oppression (avant la lettre). Jewish contemporaries of Jesus were thinking politically when they called “Jesus the King of the Jews.” By doing so, they expressed a strong political motivation in their resistance toward the Empire and colonial domination. After all, their ancestors have been historical victims of imperial violence and terror– including the Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek Empires, etc. For Jesus’ s contemporaries, to be a king was to assume a political position and governance. The political urgency of the day in Jesus’s time made his activities very suspicious and politically driven—as understood by various religious sects and political groups of the day. A Messiah, who was not a political leader, was not cool and even disappointing for many “colonial Jews” and the Jewish “diasporic populations.”
Suppose the Messiah was both a King (political) and spiritual leader (religion), would that be understood as a decalage? Can you have a Messiah-King, not a Messiah-Spiritual Reformer, or vice versa? Was it necessary for the Messiah to assume both a political and religious function concurrently? In our Western mindset, these are some of the apparent difficulties the New Testament writers attempted to reconcile in their writings–especially the four Gospels and Paul’s Letters. For the Western mind, it is a hard task to undergo; by contrast, for the Jewish mind, the Messiah-King was just a common religious and political tradition and a much-anticipated reality for the Jews in Jesus’ s day.
Traditionally, it is not really a difficulty when we examine the culture, customs, and the mindset of the people of the Ancient Near East. For the most part, it was expected for the appointed king to be the spiritual leader of his people, even in the so-called “pagan nations.” Yet a spiritual leader was not always a king. Such connecting role was anticipated by the people, and the one who will be enthroned as king understood that his dual function as king and spiritual leader was inseparable (For several centuries in the West, some Western kings played both parallel roles. This is also a common practice in African traditional culture. African traditional culture is closer to the culture and practices of the Bible as compared to Western cultural practices and political governance) The King-Spiritual leader was a common practice and parallel function in the Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations. Both the Jews and Romans as well as their surrounding countries and distant neighbors of Jesus’s times shared this mutual mindset and custom. Hence, Jesus’s disciples and followers, as well as the religious and political leaders, who were appointed by the Roman Empire, anticipated the Jewish Messiah to be a political leader (King) and religious figure (i.e. reformer, savior, redeemer, deliverer). This attitude is not a practical problem in the Gospel narratives and other writings of the New Testament, especially in Paul’s Letters.
Nonetheless, a revolution of the mind would occur in the imagination of the New Testament’s writers. What did exactly happen? Two things happened that radicalized their understanding of the person and works of Jesus, and the rapport between religion and politics in their society.
The first issue had to do with Jesus’s realization of the physical kingdom of Israel in his lifetime. The second matter had to do Jesus’s ostensible failure to inaugurate the physical kingdom of Israel under the current rule of the Roman Empire. Both phenomena would change the New Testament writers’ understanding, especially the twelve disciples, of the messianic mission of Jesus and the kingdom of God Jesus proclaimed, through his preaching and teaching, came to inaugurate in the time of imperial domination.
Let us now go to the first point, as noted above. Jesus’s disciples and those who were observing closely his activities believed there was a possibility that Jesus would be the one to restore the kingdom of Israel; in other words, he would become the anticipated Jewish King and the new spiritual reformer of both colonial and diasporic Jews. They cultivated this imminent hope because of the persuasive and attractive message of the impending kingdom and political leadership Jesus himself announced. One of the reasons many Jews became devoted followers and disciples of Jesus lied in Jesus’s message of hope and restoration connected with the imminent kingdom of God that will challenge and even reverse the present Roman imperial rule—inaugurating a new and alternative kingly leadership and ultimately the political emancipation of the colonial, exiled, and diasporic Jews. Paradoxically, the people anticipated that through the Messiah, the God of Israel will become King again (See Luke 1:46-55, 68-80; 2:22-38), and this would happen in their lifetime.
“The Great Shock”
Unfortunately, the disciples of Jesus would experience a great shock when they came to understand that the kingdom of Israel was not going to be inaugurated in Jesus’s lifetime. This realization came into fruition when Jesus was eventually arrested by the agents of the Empire, put to trial by the officials of the Empire, declared guilty— for crimes connected with “kingship claims” (associated with Roman politics) and “blasphemy” (associated with the Jewish religion)—by the political representatives of the Empire, and ultimately was crucified by the soldiers of the Empire. The warranted violations were linked to religion and politics. The execution of Jesus was a cultural and political buzz in the Roman empire.
In addition, the death of Jesus would create tremendous mental doubt, psychological reorientation, and internal conflict among his committed followers because Jesus did not become king and more importantly, the King of Israel, as anticipated and promised. Yet the bodily resurrection of Jesus, as reported in the Gospels, would generate a new psychology and theological orientation about the correlation between the spiritual leadership (messianic) and the nature of the kingdom (political) Jesus proclaimed in his pre-resurrection teachings. These historical reports can be found in the writings of the New Testament (especially in Paul’s letters, written in the 50s, then in the four Gospels, written from the 60s to 90s) written many years after the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Now, let us turn to the second point, as previously mentioned. Because Jesus failed to inaugurate the physical kingdom of Israel at the time the Romans were ruling, those who wrote the books of the New Testament would begin to reframe their previous understanding of the kingdom Jesus announced during his pre-resurrection life. The post-resurrection New Testament writings attempted to reconcile two matters of great importance in Jewish history and to a larger extent in human history, chiefly Jesus’s role as Savior-King and Jesus’s function as Political Leader and Religious Reformer. Observably, first, the language of the Texts changed, from Jesus being the spiritual leader and reformer (pre-resurrection title) to its current status as “Savior of the world” (post-resurrection title), not just the Savior of the Jewish people. The rhetoric of the Texts also changed, from Jesus being the King of Israel (or “King of the Jesus” in the Gospel of John, for example: a pre-resurrection title) to Jesus the cosmic King (also, a post-resurrection title).
To put it another way, the New Testament writers theologically reconceptualized the function of the post-resurrection Jesus as a cosmic (spiritual and political) leader and hero encompassing both realms: the natural world and the supernatural world. By virtue of his resurrection that demonstrates his power over the sphere of the dead and victory over sin and darkness ( 1 Corinthians 15; Ephesians 1:15-23; 2:1-10; 3:1-13), Jesus is presented as the Cosmic Savior-Redeemer of all people (Romans 1:1-6; Colossians 1:1-23, 2:1-15; Hebrews 1). (In the most practical way, they did not, however, inform us about the implication of the risen Christ for life under the Roman empire since the Jews and followers of Jesus still did not have a physical kingdom—even after the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. The Kingdom of Israel was not physically restored in the immediate post-resurrection times.) How did then the New Testament writers rethink the kingship of Jesus?
Let us consider six different proposals. First, they reinterpreted the nature and content of the kingdom Jesus announced in several ways (keep in mind the political kingdom was not realized in Jesus’s time. Jesus died and was translated into heaven. His early death deferred the practical fulfillment of the physical kingdom under the Roman rule, a watershed moment that has strengthened the Roman Empire and prolonged Jewish deliverance from Roman oppression and colonization.). (1) The writers of the New Testament, both eyewitness disciples and the friends of followers of Jesus, rethought about the Kingdom of God as an apocalyptic future event. They interpreted that Jesus will inaugurate an earthly kingdom when he returns on earth for a second time; (2) They construed the kingdom of God spatially and metaphysically. Jesus is the cosmic King over both the physical and metaphysical world or space; (3) They gave a spiritual meaning to the sermons and preaching, which they himself wrote, reported, and interpreted, of Jesus, associated with the nature and workings of the kingdom; (4) They viewed the kingdom in two ways: a physical kingdom and a non-physical kingdom; (5) They understood both the resurrection and ascension of Jesus as one inseparable epic event in Israel’s history, leading to the ensuing divine enthronement of Jesus as the true promised (divine) Messiah-King of Israel; and (6) They reinterpreted the kingship of Jesus in light of their understanding of the kingship of Yahweh, as narrated in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Israel’s God, whom they claimed share a divine identity and monarchical kingdom with Jesus “The Christ.”
Furthermore, these New Testament imaginations, articulations, and claims (see # 1-6) are not devoid of what the Hebrew Scriptures assert about the Messiah, his identity, and mission. In other words, the New Testament writers have gotten a better understanding of Jesus and the kingdom he boasted about not simply from what Jesus has taught and done in his pre-resurrection experience; in the post-resurrection moments as they were writing their respective books and letters and continuing the works of Jesus in various geo-political locations, they began to read the life and mission of Jesus backwards through the lens of the Hebrew Scriptures (see Richard Hays, “Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness,” and “Reading Scripture in Light of the Resurrection”) to think afresh about his true identity and the precise workings of Israel’s kingdom. That was such an intellectual and spiritual exercise! In a nutshell, the post-resurrection New Testament writings clearly indicate the followers of Jesus overwhelmingly anticipated the future coming of the King of Israel who will restore the physical kingdom of Israel in the world. Yet the scope of this anticipated kingdom is eschatological and apocalyptic.
“The King Jesus Gospel Makes Sense
or Jesus is King is Good News for all”
After articulating these various perspectives or viewpoints at this point in our conversation, let us now respond directly to the previous questions that drove this intellectual impulse or inquiry:
1) Did Jesus “become” King in order to offer salvation to all who would believe in his name and pay allegiance to him as King and Redeemer? In other words, did he receive the title “King” because of the salvific benefits he provided through his death and resurrection? In this perspective, salvation is not separated from his kingship; they must be viewed or studied in relation or connection to each other;
Response: It seems to me the New Testament writers do not understand the salvation Jesus offers as a phenomenon that is dependent exclusively upon his enthronement as King or Messiah-King. Thus, one might say that the title “King” is not the result (or contingent upon) of the salvific advantages of the Messiah’s death and resurrection. The Messiah did not die in order to become King or a monarch. The Messiah died sacrificially to offer universal salvation and for the glory of God. In this case, it is salvation without kingship. Jesus (The Christ) did not have to become a king to make salvation available and/or possible to all people.
2) Did Jesus “the Christ” receive kingship because he makes available salvation to all who would believe in him as “the Christ”–not as “the King”? From this viewpoint, kingship is only a reward because of the salvation the Messiah offers to humanity; hence, kingship is not necessarily connected to salvation or vice versa;
Response: Through a careful reading of Apostle Paul’s thought (also, the disciples’ sermons in Acts, especially Peter’s) on the subject matter, the Messiah was resurrected (the Gospels) and thus enthroned (i.e. Matthew, Acts, Ephesians, Romans, Hebrews) as King by virtue of the work he has accomplished through his substitutionary death and atonement. (the Ancient Near Eastern literature is full of folktales and myths that celebrate the hero-king who dies to save his people from their enemy and oppression; this is also a common tradition in African traditional culture. This tradition is almost absent in modern Western societies.) In this perspective, the enthronement of Jesus the Christ as King (both as Israel’s king and world’s king) is the causal effect of his triumphal resurrection. The enthronement or kingship here is a reward-based (messianic) merit, what we might phrase “messianic meritocracy” or “monarchical meritocracy” (even the “messianic monarchical meritocracy” theory). In this sense, the Messiah became King. Here, salvation is connected to messiahship and kingdom; the resurrection of Jesus is a bold testimony of his messianic mission joined together with his kingly identity (Luke 1:32–33). Thus, those who believe in his name must profess him both as King and Messiah. In this angle, the Gospel is understood as exclusive allegiance to Jesus the King by virtue of genuine saving faith in the King who delivers. Accordingly, Jesus the King is really the good news of the Gospel. The gospel cannot be anything else but the gospel of King Jesus, which brings us to a parallel claim: kingship is necessarily connected to King Jesus’s salvation, and correspondingly salvation is linked to King Jesus’s royal identity. In sum, salvation belongs to the King, and the kingdom is the possession of the messianic King. This understanding requires an imperative allegiance to King Jesus from those who deliberately confess his kingship and intentionally participate in his Gospel.
3) Could it be that the Messiah, even before his enthronement as King upon his exaltation to heaven, preexisted both as the King-Redeemer/Savior-King, and thus eventually fulfilled the dual but inseparable function as King and Savior?
Response: At the very beginning of this conversation, we mentioned that in the Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations, political leadership in the form of kingship, for example, was linked to spiritual leadership. It is important to reiterate that whenever we note the word “king,” we are referring to a political position and we are entering into the realm of politics, royalty, or monarchy. Kingship has to do with providing leadership and domination, and spiritual orientation and guidance (see 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles; a good book on the subject, which I really enjoyed reading, is Joshua Jipp’s Christ is King: Paul’s Royal Ideology”). In the Hebrew Scriptures, especially in the (post-) exilic literature, the prophets announced the coming of Israel’s Deliverer, whose dual role was exclusively political and spiritual (i.e. Daniel 10; Isaiah 7 and 9). This political leader is a preexistent King who will come as Messiah ( as observed in both Daniel and Isaiah; a powerful work that attempts to establish connections and parallels between the writings of the Hebrew Bible and the writings of the New Testament is “The Preexistent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke” by Simon J. Gathercole) to deliver the people of God from their sins (Matthew 1:21-23, 2:1-23; Luke 1:26-33) and political oppression. Accordingly, the preexistent King-Redeemer is also the Savior-King who fulfilled the dual and inseparable function as King, Redeemer, and Savior. Because the Messiah is King, he has the power to restore political order; he is against political totalitarianism and terrorism and will one day effect universal political peace and recreate the world anew. What interesting is that the kingship of Jesus the Christ is both a political and spiritual position in the same way his messiahship entails both spiritual and political deliverance from any form of political subjugation and spiritual bankruptcy. Perhaps, we should use term divine monarchical messianism to describe this joint Christocentric leadership and governance.
“Conclusion in Six Statements”
- The various quests for the historical Jesus (the original quest for the historical Jesus began in 1906 with the monumental work, “The Quest of the Historical Jesus” of Albert Schweitzer) contributed to the westernization of Jesus and the undermining of his Jewishness (Immanuel Kant was probably the first Western thinker to initiate this intellectual decentering of Jesus’s Jewishness; see J Kameron Carter, “Race: A Theological Account” for a critical analysis of Kant’s western ideological reading of Jesus’s life and thought). The more Jesus is read from a Western lens by neglecting his Middle-Eastern background, the further the interpreter will be removed from the customs and traditions that shaped his identity, work, and his message. This will also impact one’s understanding of the Gospel and its relationship with kingship.
- The personal salvation theory (i.e. individual justification by faith or personal salvation) in modern Evangelicalism has been heavily influenced by modernity’s stress on the rights of the individual and the celebration of the individual’s success or achievement. This philosophy works effectively with the American dream ideology, which emphasizes the mobility and triumph of the individual in society. Modern American evangelicals, however, have theologized the philosophy of Western individualism into the personal salvation theory. Post-modernity’s accent on the freedom of the individual is another philosophical tradition in the West that undermines exclusive allegiance to King Jesus in contemporary (American) evangelicalism and churches. This theory has caused a great intellectual damage in contemporary biblical and theological hermeneutics as well as a theological decalage in evangelization and conversion stories in our churches. Furthermore, it undermines the urgent summon to biblical discipleship inseparable from the exclusive allegiance and commitment to King Jesus.
- The declaration “Jesus is King” creates a psychological distance between the biblical world and the western world, the biblical mindset and the western mindset. The political system and revolution, initiated in the so-called period of “High Enlightenment” and the “Age of Reason” in Western societies, resulted in the abandonment of the monarchial rule for the democratic governance. Political ideologies, articulated during that era in the writings of Western political scientists and philosophers, would substantially influence the King Jesus Gospel, particularly in the area of textual interpretation pertaining to the essence of the Gospel and the nature of the Messiah’s monarchical rule (1 Corinthians 15). As a result, the new attitude toward the democratic order in rejection of the monarchical system would undermine the significant correlation between the identity of Jesus as a monarch and justification by faith alone—a theological confession that was already promoted by the Protestant Reformers in the sixteenth century. Western biblical scholars and theologians did not want to confront Jesus the Monarch-King because of their bad experience with Western monarchs and kings. Thus, their political conviction would influence not only their theological conviction, more importantly, the true essence of the Gospel of King Jesus, rested in the complete allegiance to him as King. The great decalage lied, from the Middle to High Modernity periods, in the realm of the political and the sphere of the theological, political theory and theological hermeneutics.
- Hence, it has become a mental convenience for modern Christian interpreters to connect the personal salvation to justification by faith then to link the gospel of salvation to the kingship of Jesus. To say “Jesus is the King” might intimidate the American and the European Christian whose current political system prioritizes representative or liberal democracy not perpetual monarchy. In this sense, politically speaking, the idea of the kingship of Jesus is not good news for the modern American or the Western person because Jesus’s monarchical rule not only calls for the reversal of the current political order and the world-order systems. This bold thesis (“Jesus is the King”) makes a clarion call to declare the kingship of Jesus (which is the essence of the Gospel story) expressed in personal and ecclesiastical allegiance and faithful commitment to king Jesus.
- Arguably, the Gospel is intimately connected to the Kingship of Jesus and the exclusive allegiance that Jesus is King, resulting in forgiveness of and deliverance from sins and justification by faith. In other words, forgiveness, deliverance, justification, and peace with God among the other grand benefits of the Gospel are the ensuing effects of the King Jesus Gospel. Justification by faith alone does not lead to salvation in Jesus; rather, it is allegiance to Jesus as King and Savior or Savior-King, resulting in justification—the effect of the Christocentric allegiance—that delivers. The cost of biblical discipleship requires the complete abandonment of one’s self and former allegiances to cling to and follow King Jesus as Master. Further, in the Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations, it was customary for the king of the nation to demand total allegiance to him and that allegiance was exclusive and non-negotiable (See the book of Daniel for King Nebuchadnezzar’s inclusive request for faithful loyalty to him, as well as the book of Exodus, in which King Pharaoh’s nonnegotiable demand of allegiance from both the Egyptians and the Israelite’s slave population is established; the books of Kings and Chronicles are full of examples in which the kings insisted on comprehensive allegiance from the people they ruled.).
- The proclamation “Jesus Is King” is unquestionably the good news of the Gospel of the King. It is the only gospel that liberates, sanctifies, and justifies; it is the Gospel of the King that challenges both the spiritual and politic order of modernity and post-modernity.
I close this essay with this moving and theological prayer entitled “That’s My King,” which Rev. Dr. Shadrack Meshach Lockridge (1913-2000) delivered in 1976:
My King was born King.
The Bible says He’s a Seven Way King.
He’s the King of the Jews — that’s a racial King.
He’s the King of Israel — that’s a national King.
He’s the King of righteousness.
He’s the King of the ages.
He’s the King of Heaven.
He’s the King of glory.
He’s the King of kings
and He is the Lord of lords.
Now that’s my King. Well I wonder if you know Him.
Do you know Him?
Don’t try to mislead me.
Do you know my King?
David said the Heavens declare the glory of God,
and the firmament showeth His handiwork.
My King is the only one whom there are no means of measure can define His limitless love.
No far seeing telescope can bring into visibility the coastline of His shoreless supplies.
No barriers can hinder Him from pouring out His blessing.
He’s enduringly strong.
He’s entirely sincere.
He’s eternally steadfast.
He’s immortally graceful.
He’s imperially powerful.
He’s impartially merciful.
That’s my King.
He’s God’s Son.
He’s the sinner’s savior.
He’s the centerpiece of civilization.
He stands alone in Himself.
Well, He’s the loftiest idea in literature.
He’s the highest personality in philosophy.
He’s the supreme problem in higher criticism.
He’s the fundamental doctrine of true theology.
He’s the cardinal necessity of spiritual religion.
That’s my King.
He’s the miracle of the age.
He’s the superlative of everything good that you choose to call Him.
Well, He’s the only one able to supply all of our needs simultaneously.
He supplies strength for the weak.
He’s available for the tempted and the tried.
He sympathizes and He saves.
He’s strong God and He guides.
He heals the sick.
He cleanses the lepers.
He forgives sinners.
He discharges debtors.
He delivers the captives.
He defends the feeble.
He blesses the young.
He serves the unfortunate.
He regards the aged.
He rewards the diligent and He beautifies the meek.
Do you know Him?
Well, my King is a King of knowledge.
He’s the wellspring of wisdom.
He’s the doorway of deliverance.
He’s the pathway of peace.
He’s the roadway of righteousness.
He’s the highway of holiness.
He’s the gateway of glory.
He’s the Master of the mighty.
He’s the Captain of the conquerors.
He’s the Head of the heroes.
He’s the Leader of the legislators.
He’s the Overseer of the overcomers.
He’s the Governor of governors.
He’s the Prince of princes.
He’s the King of kings and He’s the Lord of lords.
That’s my King. Yeah. Yeah.
That’s my King. My King, yeah.
His office is manifold.
His promise is sure.
His light is matchless.
His goodness is limitless.
His mercy is everlasting.
His love never changes.
His word is enough.
His grace is sufficient.
His reign is righteous.
His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
Well. I wish I could describe Him to you,
but He’s indescribable.
He’s indescribable. Yeah!
I’m trying to tell you,
the heavens of heavens cannot contain Him,
let alone a man explain Him.
You can’t get Him out of your mind.
You can’t get Him off of your hand.
You can’t outlive Him and you can’t live without Him.
Well, Pharisees couldn’t stand Him,
but they found out they couldn’t stop Him.
Pilate couldn’t find any fault in Him.
The witnesses couldn’t get their testimonies to agree.
Herod couldn’t kill Him.
Death couldn’t handle Him and the grave couldn’t hold Him.
That’s my King. Yeah!
He always has been and He always will be.
I’m talking about He had no predecessor
and He’ll have no successor.
There was nobody before Him
and there’ll be nobody after Him.
You can’t impeach Him
and He’s not gonna resign.
That’s my King! That’s my King!
Thine, Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory.
Well, all the power belongs to my King.
We’re around here talking about black power and white power and green power,
but it’s God’s power. Thine is the power.
And the glory.
We try to get prestige and honor and glory for ourselves,
but the glory is all His. Yes.
Thine is the Kingdom
and the power and the glory,
forever and ever
How long is that?
And ever and ever and ever and ever.
And when you get through with all of the forevers,