Theology might be the most difficult discipline: the subject is truly infinite. There are so many things you could say about God that it’s hard to know where to start.
Jesus said many things about God, but his Father’s kingship was at the heart of his message. His sketched stories of life under God’s kingship, the kingdom of God. He healed people to bring God’s kingship close. He gave his life to break the power of evil and restore earth to God’s reign. The heavenly sovereign raised him up from death to the throne — all authority in heaven and on earth.
With laser precision, everything Jesus said and did was focused on a singular truth: God is king.
That’s not how we generally describe God. I just searched 160 books on systematic theology to see how many thought this was an important thing to say about God. How many of them contained a heading with the words God and king? Only one! Kingship is not viewed as a crucial aspect of God.
We tend to think of God in the religious category, not the political category. We think of how God helps me in my spiritual world with forgiveness and guidance. We don’t think of God as the king who calls the earth to respond to his kingship.
But there’s a more sinister reason why we don’t describe God as king. Kings have a terrible track record of abusing their power, right back through history. We don’t even trust our politicians. So if we describe God as king, don’t we run the risk of portraying God as a tyrannical autocrat?
That’s not a new problem. Jesus lived under Herod. Daniel lived under Nebuchadnezzar. In fact, the whole Bible narrative addresses the way humans abuse power that should have been in God’s hands. That’s what sin is. God is not corrupted by power. Our true sovereign cares for his subjects genuinely, with an unfailing love, persisting with us even when we rebel, even when we grasp at his power, even when we abuse and harm each other.
So how does our true king regain his authority over his rebels? We have to tell that story so people understand the kind of king God is. That’s the Bible’s central message.
The Bible opens with the sovereign who establishes two realms under his governance: his place (heaven) and our place (earth), with the right relationship between heaven and earth being the key theme. He designed earth to function under heaven’s reign. He designed humans to function as the image of the heavenly king in his earthly realm. Conflict and strife were the inevitable result of the king’s trusted servants attempting to displace their king.
The nations have gone their own way, but the Great King doesn’t force himself on them. He called Jacob’s family as his representative nation to bring the nations back under his kingship. God’s nation was unfaithful to their King, so eventually Israel split apart and was swallowed up by the nations. That’s why Jesus’ message was such good news: God is still restoring his kingship, not only over Israel but also over the nations!
But when the almighty king of the universe puts on his armour and comes to confront evil and restore justice to his earthly realm, he looks more like a lamb than a lion. “Don’t you realize I have the power to crucify you?” sneers Caesar’s representative. “The only power you have over me is what our higher ruler permits,” Jesus replies (John 19:10-11).
The crucifixion of God’s Son is the full expression of the sin of an earthly realm in rebellion against its sovereign. The resurrection of God’s Son is ultimate overturning of the power of sin, raising him from death to the throne with all authority over God’s two realms (heaven and earth).
That’s why we proclaim him to be Lord — God’s anointed ruler, restoring God’s reign on earth. He did no violence to become king: he defeated violence in his cross.
It’s precisely because rulership is so abused on earth that we must proclaim God as king. This is the story of how injustice is set right, of how all the evil on earth will ultimately be defeated by our true sovereign.
All other powers must yield to him. He’s the only ruler worthy of the name:
Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power … To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever! (Rev 5:12-13)
God is king. Theologians may not have identified this as the most important thing to say about God, but it may be. It’s the confession that saves us from oppression under evil, bringing us back were we belong: under divine governance.
God is king, and Jesus is his anointed ruler (Christ, Lord). That’s the most important confession of allegiance any human can make.