Under Construction: Much More is Coming
‘And He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his Kingdom there shall be no end.’
‘And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.’
‘Jesus answered, My Kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.’
Order of Contents
While Christ has a Kingdom of Power over the whole world in its general providence as He is divine, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is the Mediatorial Kingdom that has been delegated to Him as the God-Man only over the Church, or co-extensive with his Kingdom of Power over the whole world?
Dr. Richard Muller, one of the world’s leading Reformed historians, summarizes the standard reformed view of the Reformation and Puritan era thus:
‘The Reformed, however [in contrast to the Lutherans], tend to attribute the regnum universale [universal Kingdom] specifically to the Second Person of the Trinity and only the regnum oeconomicum [economic reign, including the Mediatorial Kingdom] to the God-man as Mediator.’
– Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms, pp. 259-260
George Gillespie, the Westminster divine, explains historically, in part, why the doctrine that Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom is the Church only became so dominant during the Reformation and shortly thereafter, here. Here are All of the Scottish Confessions, National Covenants and Declarations from the Reformation, Puritan and Covenanting Eras on Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom is the Church Only.
Thus, according to the large majority of the Reformation and Puritan era, Christ has two Kingdoms:
1. A Kingdom by divine right (along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the other persons of the Trinity) as Creator (Prov. 8:15-16;22-30), King (Ps. 99:1-2), Governor (Col. 1:16-17) and Head (Col. 2:9-10) of the universe. Civil and paternal authority derive from this source (Rom. 13:1; Ex. 20:12). By the call of the gospel (Mt. 6:33; Col. 3:17), persons are to use their natural vocations and authority (Ps. 2:10-12; Isa. 49:23) to profess Christ (Col. 3:17), glorify Him and serve (Ps. 72:10-11) the interests of his Mediatorial Kingdom (Mt. 6:33) in consistency with the natural ends of their offices (1 Pet. 2:13-14).
2. A Kingdom that has been delegated and given to Christ as the God-Man, Mediator, King (Lk. 1:32-33; Isa. 9:6-7) and Head (Col. 1:18) of God’s people, the Church, only (Eph. 1:22-23 in the Greek), for redemptive purposes (Jn. 17:2). Due to his mediatorial work, Christ the God-Man has been exalted in glory over the whole universe (Phil. 2:6-9; Heb. 2:8) and has been given all spiritual (Jn. 17:2; 18:36; Lk. 17:20-21) authority ‘as Mediator… [to] exercise a supreme power (Mt. 28:18) and providence over all things for his own glory and his Church’s good’ (Eph. 1:22), including over-ruling and dashing kings and nations of the earth that resist Him and will not serve Him (Ps. 2:9-12).
Thus, the nearly universal view of the Reformation was that the civil government’s sole source of authority and power was from God the Trinity as Creator (Rom. 13:1-5; Ps. 82:1), via nature (1 Pet. 2:13-14; Gen. 9:5-7; 10:8-10; Jud. 9:6; 1 Sam. 11:15; 12:1, etc.), and not from Christ as Mediator.
One reason, amongst many others, why Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom does not include the world is because a kingdom, by definition, must be for the good of its subjects (Rom. 13:4; WCF 23.1; WLC #45). Yet Christ’s governing of all people and dashing nations and kings that resist Him through providential judgments (Ps. 2:8-12) is not for their good, but for the good of the Church, his Kingdom.
The Secession Church of Scotland (1732 and following) held substantially the same view that came before them, though it used different terminology and had some variation of categories. They asserted that Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom is over all things spiritually (Christ governs all things for his spiritual ends), but the sole source of civil authority is still via nature, from God as Creator. This view, and its attendant terminology, accounts for almost all of the historic, Reformed theologians during the 1500’s and 1600’s who used the terminology of Christ’s Kingdom as Mediator being over all things. It also accounts for much of the same terminology being used by standard Reformed writers in later centuries.
The third view, that Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom includes all things, while having previous precedents in Reformed history, has most often been associated with the family of denominations known as the Reformed Presbyterians. This view asserts that all authority has been transferred to Christ at his ascension such that all authority, natural and spiritual, derive from Christ as Mediator, his Mediatorial Kingdom being co-extensive with that of his Kingdom of Power by creation, and all ruling functions of the Trinity by creation being delegated to Him. Thus, the civil government, as well as every natural institution, derives at least part of its authority from Christ as God-man at the right hand of God, its Head, and is thus formally responsible to Him, as God-Man, in all things both spiritual and moral (natural). Unbelievers, while owned by Christ, are in Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom in a non-saving way, being rebels to his rule.
The Reformed Presbyterian theoloigical professor David McKay writes concerning the history of this view:
“By the following century [the 1800’s], however, the doctrine [of the kingship of Christ as Mediator over the nations] is taken as an essential element of the Reformed Presbyterian Testimony, complete with exegesis of a number of texts, yet with little apparent awareness that it is not the doctrine of the early Covenanters.”
– ‘From Popery to Principle: Covenanters and the Kingship of Christ’ in ed. Anthony Selvaggio, The Faith Once Delivered: Essays in Honor of Dr. Wayne Spear (2007) p. 156
The Traditional and Seceder views espouse a ‘Two Kingdom’ paradigm. The view commonly held by Reformed Presbyterians also often holds to a Two Kingdom paradigm with a super-added universal Mediatorial Kingdom since Christ’s ascension; see for instance, William Symington’s Messiah the Prince, pp. 213-215 & 101-102, though the distinction between the Kingdoms becomes ‘only theoretical’.¹
¹ Andrew Symington, Headship of Christ over the Nations, p. 16
Some persons of this view, though, would reject the Two Kingdom paradigm altogether and assert only one Kingdom through history with two different aspects, such as the Reformed Presbyterian theological professor, David McKay (An Ecclesiastical Republic, pp. 62-76). McKay says that this One Kingdom view, ‘…did not really develop until approximately the last century.’ (p. 77)
All three of the views on this page are in contrast to the modern Two Kingdoms view, commonly espoused, for instance, by professors at Westminster Seminary West. The difference lies in how the Kingdoms relate to each other. The Modern view of Church and State relations (historically known as Voluntaryism), holds that the civil government is to uphold only half of God’s Moral Law: only the 2nd Table of the Ten Commandments; and thus the State is to enforce, by the Will of God and his holy authority, religious pluralism.
All three of the views represented on this page, in contrast, fully hold to the orthodox reformed view of the Establishment Principle (see Westminster Confession of Faith, 1646, ch. 23.3), that the civil government and the Church are co-ordinate institutions under the authority of the Word of God with separate jurisdictions. The civil government, in the administration of its office, is to profess, protect and promote the true religion and uphold all of the Ten Commandments in natural society, as responsible unto God and wielding his authority, according to its limited, natural and outward civil jurisdiction, without interfering with the spiritual commission, administration, jurisdiction and authority of the Church.
The Traditional and Seceder views hold that the civil government is under the headship and power-giving authority of God as Creator and Christ as divine, and that the Church is under the headship and power-giving authority of Christ as Mediator, the God-man. The view associated with the Reformed Presbyterians holds that both the civil magistrate and the Church are under the headship and power-giving authority of Christ as Mediator, the God-Man.
Please enjoy this Christian literature and learn much from the saints that have gone before us. May Christ’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
1. Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom is the Church Only
Contemporary Introductory Article
Barth, Paul – Confessional Two Kingdoms 2015, 26 paragraphs
Westminster Divines – See the link above for articles by Anthony Burgess, Edward Leigh, Edward Reynolds, George Gillespie and Samuel Rutherford.
A’Brakel, Wilhelmus – The Christian’s Reasonable Service, vol. 1, ch. 21, ‘The Kingly Office of Jesus Christ’, p. 561-3 1700
A’Brakel’s treatment is brief, but interesting in revealing the Dutch scene. His systematic theology may be the most influential set of theology in Dutch Reformed history.
Crakanthorpe, Richard – ‘That Christ had no such Temporal Monarchy, as is now claimed for the Pope,’ 1621, 12 pages, being ch. 2 of The Defense of Constantine with a treatise of [against] the Pope’s Temporal monarchy, wherein… the second Roman Synod, vnder Silvester, is declared to be a mere fiction and forgery
Crakanthorpe takes aim at the doctrine of Roman Catholicism, but as will be seen from the article, presents a very detailed discussion of the nature and extent of Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom from the Reformed paradigm.
Rutherford, Samuel – The King’s Relation to Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom: All of Rutherford’s Writings on the Topic
Wollebius, an influential Swiss theologian, presents the standard reformed view in his foundational systematic theology that shaped much of reformed theology after him.
Fentiman, Travis – A Defense of Gillespie: Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom is the Church Only; with all of Gillespie’s Writings on the Topic
‘The Westminster Assembly and the Judicial Law’ in Confessional Presbyterian, vol. 5 (2009), p. 74, 76-77
“A Christian [according to the Westminster Confession of Faith] may take up the lawful calling of a magistrate, in contrast to Anabaptism. A magistrate must not exercise his rule in sacred things, in contrast to Erastianism. An infidel magistrate still possesses legal authority, in contrast with Romanism.
Although Anabaptism, Erastianism, and Romanism are quite divergent systems, the three share one underlying assumption in their views of the relationship of the State to Christianity–they all teach that lawful civil power is, in some way or another, derived from Jesus Christ as Mediator.
Anabaptists denied that non-Christian government is ordained of God. As Robert Baillie relates, they considered the saints to be those who were ‘joined to their Churches and received their Anabaptisme; all the rest of them were wicked and to be cut off.’ Erastians asserted, in the words of Thomas Coleman, ‘that God hath given all magistracy to Christ to be managed under him, for him.’ Romanists made magistrates servants to the papacy. Samuel Rutherford wrote, ‘Stapleton, Bellarmine, and Papists will have them [princes] to be brutish servants, to execute whatsoever the Pope and Councils shall decree, good or bad, without examination.’
All three systems differ as to the application of this principle and the place where ultimate jurisdiction is to be vested–Anabaptists placing it in the Conscience, Erastians in the King, and Romanists in the Pope–but they agree on the principle itself, that Jesus Christ as Mediator is the foundation of civil power.
In opposing these three errors, the Westminster divines, with the exception of the Erastian representatives, rejected the view that the civil magistrate derives his authority from Christ as Mediator. Rather, it is from God as the Creator and Supreme Ruler that magistrates receive power…
In contrast to the teaching of the Confession and its framers, theonomy rejects the nature-grace distinction and teaches that the civil magistrate is subservient to Christ as Mediator. Greg Bahnsen claims that ‘A nature/grace dichotomy in the area of civil government is totally alien to the scriptural outlook’ (Theonomy in Christian Ethics, 433). It is taught that ‘the Lord’s Messiah has absolute, firm, and autocratic authority over all the magistrates of the nations; they are guided, directed, and chastised by Him’ (362). The apostle Paul is alleged to have ‘subordinated the authority of Caesar to that of King Jesus’ and ‘by his teaching of the Kingship of Christ Paul was opposing the decrees of autocratic Caesar’ (395).¹
¹ The Westminster Annotations take the opposite view, and judge the allegation made against Paul and Silas [in Acts 17:7] to be nothing less than a false aspersion cast upon them by the Jews. It also comments, ‘Paul and Silas endeavored to advance the spiritual kingdom of Christ, without any injury to the Roman Empire… the ancient Christians were no disturbers of States.’ ‘Annotations on the Acts of the Apostle’s,’ in The Second Volume of Annotations, on Acts 17:7.
Finally it is maintained [by Bahnsen],
‘The only ultimate King in civil government is Christ, and all rulers of the nations derive their authority from Him; hence all magistrates are subject to Christ’s word, even Christ’s confirmation of every bit of the law (Matt 17f.)… National leaders have no exemption from the law of God just as they have no escape from the universal Lordship of Christ’ (429).
The civil magistrate, according to this [theonomic] view of it, is a ‘Christocracy’ (432). This means that ‘state leaders are just as obligated to follow Christ’s direction as the church elders are required to obey the Head of the Church’ (433).
2. Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom is Over All Things, Spiritually
Brown, John, of Haddington – A Compendious View of Natural and Revealed Religion, Book 4, ‘Of the General and Particular Offices of Christ’, Part III, pp. 309-316 1782
Gib, Adam 1774
‘Of the Accomplishment of the Covenant of Grace by Christ as a King’ from Sacred Contemplations, Part 2, Period 2, Section 3, pp. 234-9 1786
Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom and Common Benefits 1747 7 pages, from hisThe Present Truth: A Display of the Secession Testimony, vol. 2, Appendix 2, Section 4, pp. 299-302 1774
Stevenson, George – The Offices of Christ, Sections 12-13, ‘The Kingly Office of Christ’ & ‘The Extent of our Lord’s Dominion as Mediator’, being pp. 109-121, no date
3. Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom Includes All Things
Howe, John – The Redeemer’s Dominion over the Invisible World, in Works (London, 1862), vol. 2, pp. 371-449
Howe (1630-1705) was a dissenting minister in England. His piece is a classic.
‘Nor is this key of the vast Hades [the unseen world, Rev. 1:18], when it is in the hand of our Redeemer, the less in the hand of the Holy, Blessed One; for so is He too. But it is in his hand as belonging to his office of Mediator between God and man…’ – p. 380
Johnston, Archibald – The Kingdom of the Stone no date, d. 1818
Myers, Andrew – Resources on Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom being Over All Things
Pockras, Philip, Christ the King of All, no date, 9 pp.
Symington, William – Messiah the Prince 1834
‘As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him.’