John 18:36

It is not always possible to return a direct answer to a question. When Pilate asked our Lord Jesus, "Art thou a King?" the reply could not have been either "Yes" or "No" without misleading the questioner. In a sense he was not a king, - that is, he made no claim to an earthly, temporal sovereignty; in another sense he was a King, - a spiritual Sovereign, although his kingdom was not of this world. Thus the question of the Roman governor was the occasion of the utterance of a great truth, a great principle, distinctive of the religion and Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I. CHRIST'S KINGDOM IS UNWORLDLY IN ITS COMPATIBILITY WITH AND ITS TOLERANCE OF OTHER KINGDOMS. Earthly governments do not admit of the imperium in imperio. The same subject cannot owe allegiance to two lords. The same land cannot admit the promulgation of different codes of law. Oppression, confusion, rebellion, anarchy, would be the result of such an attempt. But the kingdom of the Lord Jesus can exist and flourish in the most diverse forms of secular government. The subjects of a despotic monarchy, and the citizens of a democratic republic, are alike capable of acknowledging the supremacy and obeying the commands of King Jesus. So far from destroying or imperiling a state, Christianity, when it takes possession of a people, tends to establish a state in righteousness, freedom, and peace. The ruler and the governed may alike confess the sway and honor the authority of the Lord and King of men.

II. CHRIST'S KINGDOM IS UNWORLDLY IN THE CHARACTER AND THE APPEARANCE OF ITS MONARCH. Earthly kings are always imperfect in character, and sometimes unjust, malevolent, vain, and selfish; yet they may maintain the outward semblance of dignity, wealth, magnificence, and power. The Lord Christ, on the contrary, had no earthly rank, or splendor, no gorgeous palace, no imposing retinue. He was in outward guise lowly and obscure, and he was by men scoffed at and despised. Yet he was and is the Holy One and Just, the faultless and benevolent Ruler of men, the Lord of heaven, the Judge of all. How wonderful and sublime a contrast to the kings of this world is the meek Monarch, the scepter of whose kingdom is a right scepter!

III. CHRIST'S KINGDOM IS UNWORLDLY IN ITS OWN ORIGIN AND IN ITS SOVEREIGN'S TITLE AND CLAIM. The conception did not spring up in a human mind. "Now," said Jesus, "is my kingdom not from hence." Designated "the kingdom of heaven" and "the kingdom of God," it is, in its ground and in its character, what such designations involve. It is to the Divine wisdom and love that this unworldly kingdom must be traced. Christ is King by inheritance, as Son of God; by conquest, as the redeeming Lord; by choice and election, being welcomed by the joyful acclamations of his loyal subjects. In all these respects our Savior's title to the throne is very different from the titles put forward by the kings of this earth.

IV. CHRIST'S KINGDOM IS UNWORLDLY IN THE NATURE OF ITS DOMINION OVER ITS SUBJECTS. The subjects of an earthly monarch are usually born beneath the sway of their liege lord. In any case their obedience and submission, their aid and support, are required, and the requirement is, if necessary, enforced by penalties. The sway of the king is over the outward actions, the speech and habits of the subjects. Very different is the case with the members of that spiritual state of which Jesus is the sovereign Ruler. They are all citizens of the commonwealth and subjects of the King in virtue of personal faith and voluntary submission. Christ reigns in the heart; he has no care for the mere homage of the lips, the mere prostration of the body. His is a spiritual empire.

V. CHRIST'S KINGDOM IS UNWORLDLY IN THE AIM IT SEEKS AND THE MEANS IT EMPLOYS. Whilst earthly sovereignties aim at the outward order and prosperity of the community, at peace and wealth, at conquest and glory, at power and fame, and whilst they employ secular means towards these ends - Christ's kingdom contemplates purely moral ends - the growth and prevalence of righteousness and holiness, patience and love; in a word, those spiritual characteristics which are distinctive of every divinely ordered society, and by means in harmony with such ends. No fear or constraint, no magistrates, officers, soldiers, prisons, does Christ employ. He disclaims force; "else," said he, "would my servants fight." His is a kingdom in which truth is revealed and embodied - truth which calls for faith, and the support of intelligence and loyalty. The laws of the spiritual kingdom are not prohibitions; they take the form of examples, and are sustained by the sanction of Divine love.

VI. CHRIST'S KINGDOM IS UNWORLDLY IN ITS EXTENT AND PERPETUITY. Whilst no earthly conqueror has been suffered by Divine providence to achieve a universal dominion, Christ shall "reign from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth." Whilst all human governments are liable to decay, and the Roman empire itself passed into a decline which issued in its fall, Christ's "kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endureth to all generations." - T.

My kingdom is not of this world.
I. ITS NATURE. "Not of this world," because —

1. It is spiritual. Utterly unlike those shifting, earthly sovereignties which are founded in arms, maintained by policy, and passed, by death, from one hand to another; or to that rude and turbulent anarchy, which has often cast down and destroyed nations. Throughout our Lord's ministrations, He never would employ force at all. From the first, He was careful to teach that the weapons of the Christian warfare are not carnal, that the wrath of man would never work the righteousness of God. "Not by might, nor by power," &c.

2. The setting up of this kingdom in any individual heart is related to the principle of an invisible administration, to the transference of service from one unseen master to another, so that our sinful bondage may be broken and a spiritual freedom gained, which the world indeed seeth not nor can see. "Giving thanks unto the Father, who hath delivered us from the power of darkness and hath translated us," &c. Messiah has no born subjects, no hereditary followers; His servants are all the redeemed from a bondage which, until the day of His power came upon them, they have no power to throw off. The fact is important as showing that the affairs of the spiritual kingdom, though administered by an omnipotent hand, are yet administered only in harmony with the conditions of our moral liberty. Christ will not have forced subjects.

3. The influences which tend to its growth and establishment, come not of observation, can never be understood by the world, but do their work silently, secretly, making a sort of life within a life, A life hid with Christ in God.

4. In this world, even to the spiritual eye, the sight of its glorious realities cannot be shown. Visions of the King in His beauty are not for this earthly state: we must wait for the day of His appearing. "Now we see only through a glass darkly."


1. The means by which Christ's subjects are brought into this kingdom are not of this world. Christ uses no force, bribes or guile. He makes us so willing that on His drawing them they run after Him. What is the agency which works in the heart? It is the power of love; the remnants of a better nature appealed to to say whether such a Saviour should be slighted by anybody with a heart at all?

2. There are laws and statutes by which the spiritual government is carried on. These are not like those which belong to a kingdom of this world — confined to the outward life, to the loyalties of an external obedience, and the homage of the lip and knee. The empire of Christ is over the heart, and is satisfied with nothing but the casting down of heart pride, and the rooting out of heart sin, and the maintaining of heart-allegiance and duty. And Christ claims to have the ordering of our whole inner life; to give the law to conscience, the rule to the judgment, the choice to our wills, to direct the current of our affections, and to fashion the course of our lives. And He thus maintains His dominion over us.

3. Christ has chastisements for those who infringe the laws of His kingdom; but they are not like the chastisements of this world, nor are they administered after the same capricious and uncertain rule. "There is a 'needs be' for this chastening. Christ sees something in us which WE see not — something that hinders repentance, love, prayer."

4. The rewards are not of this world, by which we are urged to become His subjects. The world has no part in this; does not even understand it; the peace of God — the consolations of Christ — the fellowship of the Spirit — the justified and unburdened conscience — the tranquil delights of devotion — death and the great future contemplated without dismay. Our experience belonging to the kingdom of the invisible, "we look not," says the Apostle, "on the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen." Unseen triumphs, an unseen King; the unseen rewards of the righteous when they shall sit with Christ upon His throne.Conclusion:

1. In this world Christians are not unfrequently afflicted and poor people, esteemed lightly and uncared for. How comforting is the thought that there is a King to protect and bless and defend them.

2. As children of the kingdom, Christ has a special property in us. The name He has given to us — the blood He has shed for us — the victories He has won for us — the agencies He has set up for us in His Word and sacraments, are all so many pledges that He will never leave us.

3. Christ is a King, then, but He is a spiritual king. Whether we look at the individual or the collective triumphs of His kingdom, we cannot find out the law of success. We scatter the incorruptible seed, but we know not whether shall prosper, this or that. No account can be given why to this man the message is blessed, and to that man it should fail; why to this it should be a savour of life unto life; to that a savour of death unto death. All is spiritual, unseen. When the word prospers we see nothing but the fruits, and these are developed often secretly, slowly silently.

(D. Moore, M. A.)


1. Providential.

2. Mediatorial.

II. WHAT KIND OF A KINGDOM? It differs from worldly kingdoms —

1. In pomp and glory.

2. In its subjects.

3. Rule.

4. Homage.

5. Weapons.

6. Privileges.

7. Penalties.


1. All their business is transacted in the court of Christ.

2. They are free.

3. They have free trade with heaven.

4. Right to all the Saviour's ordinances.

5. His protection.

6. Will be victorious.


1. Because He would confound the wisdom of the world.

2. Because He delights to exercise the graces of His saints.

3. That His power and wisdom may appear more glorious.

(J. Burroughs.)

I. WHAT DOES CHRIST MEAN BY THE TERM "MY KINGDOM"? It means the empire Christ came to found on earth, or in other words, the Church which He purchased with His blood. Although our Lord came on earth as Man, and that a poor, sorrowful, despised one, yet did He come commissioned from heaven to found an empire which should outlast and outlive all powers and dominations then existing.

1. The empire of Christ consists of those who own allegiance to Him. It was once far otherwise with them; with the weapons of the rebel grasped tightly in their hands, and with hearts burning with hell's hatred, they blasphemously shouted, "We will not have this Man to reign over us."

2. The empire of Jesus consists of those in whose heart He reigns. In every human breast there is by nature some hideous hateful Dagon; some proud usurper of the Saviour's throne. But in the hearts of those who are included in the kingdom this Dagon has been hurled with ignominy to the ground. The ark of the Lord has entered, and before it the idol has fallen.

3. The kingdom of Jesus is, as we have already said, His Church.

4. One thought more, and I will close this first division of our subject. The kingdom of Christ shall last for ever. And when this world, with all its proud domains, shall have been consumed in the general fire, then transplanted into heaven, shall this kingdom shine, the only one that has outlived the general wreck of time.


1. Its institution was not of this world. Monarchs founded it not; princes formed it not; nor is it the creation of a state. It is in its origin most emphatically "not of this world." So far from the world aiding its institution, it has been set up in spite of the world's most bitter opposition. Had it been of the world, then the world would have loved its own, but as it came from above, it hated it.

2. Its subjects are not. There is not a single man, woman, or child, who is truly a subject of Christ and a member of His kingdom, concerning whom it may not be said, he or she is not of this world. All the members of Christ's Church have been "born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." No man is born by nature a child of this kingdom; were it so the kingdom would at once be of this world, which it is not. Moreover, it is not in the power of man to introduce a subject into this kingdom; for, were it so, then again the kingdom would be of this world, which it is not.

3. Its defence is not. It requires no imperial legislation to maintain its existence, nor armies to subdue its foes. It thrives best when left alone, and grows the fastest when unaided by the world.

4. Its laws are not. The laws which are binding on the Church are only those which have been framed in heaven, and are transcribed into God's statute-book, the Bible, and we laugh all others to scorn.

5. Its commerce is not. No kingdom on the face of the whole earth has such a commerce, or rejoices in such a trade as the kingdom of our Lord. It traffics in the costliest and choicest things, and all its merchants are merchant princes. Its ships are never wrecked. Its bank — for it has but one — possesses wealth that is infinite, and therefore can never break. The Church's commerce is "not of this world." The port with which she trades is the port of heaven. Her vessels are her prayers, some larger and some smaller, yet all equally insured against shipwreck; the faintest sigh as well as the most eloquent petition reaches the ear of God. All come back laden with blessing, for never was praying breath spent in vain. The costly, precious wares she is constantly receiving consist of such treasures as pardon, peace, joy, contentment, and holiness, all of which are "precious things of heaven." Her export consists of thanksgiving, gratitude, love, devotion. But oh, did I not say very rightly that her trade is nearly all import? What poor returns we make for the mercies that are literally heaped upon us l How lightly laden are our ships of praise!

6. Its precepts are not. Herein does the Church's unworldliness shine transcendently. "Do to others as they do to you" is the maxim of the world. "Do to others as ye would that they should do to you" is the precept of this kingdom. "Pay him back in his own coin" is the precept of the world. "Pay him back in heaven's coinage" is the maxim of the Church.

7. Its pomp and splendour is not. We say not it has none, for it has. It is a kingdom of kings, and a nation of priests. Every subject is arrayed in royal robes, and the poorest is an "uncrowned monarch." The kingdom which is from above should be content with the glory that heaven gives it, and not seek to array itself with the importance and grandeur of a world which it professes to renounce.

8. Its weapons are not. This fact the verse seems to teach most clearly, for says our Lord, "If My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews." We are not allowed to pioneer the way for our religion by the spear, nor enforce its truths by the sword, as Mahomet did his lies.

(A. G. Brown.)

You tell your child that this pine-tree out here in the sandy field is one day going to be as large as that great sonorous pine that sings to every wind in the wood. The child, incredulous, determines to watch and see whether the field-pine really does grow and become as large as you say it will. So, the next morning, he goes out and takes a look at it, and comes back and says, "It has not grown a particle." At night he goes out and looks at it again, and comes back and says, "It has not grown a bit." The next week he goes out and looks at it again, and comes back and says, "It has not grown any yet. Father said it would be as large as the pine-tree in the wood, but I do not see any likelihood of its becoming so." How long did it take that pine-tree in the wood to grow? Two hundred years. The men who lived when it began to grow have been buried, and generations besides have come and gone since then. And do you suppose that God's kingdom is going to grow so that you can look at it and see that it has grown during any particular day? You cannot see it grow. All around you are things that are growing, but that you cannot see grow. And if it is so with trees and things that spring out of the ground, how much more is it so with the kingdom of God! That kingdom is advancing surely, though it advances slowly, and though it is invisible to us.

(H. W. Beecher.)

An attempt had been made to alarm the emperor by connecting the Christian hope of Christ's second coming with the intrigues of the Jews for the recovery of their independence. Domitian at once questioned the grandchildren of Jude (he had heard that they were the race of David) as to the nature of the glorious kingdom for which they were looking. He was only reassured by learning how poor they were, and by seeing their horny hands, which proved that these supposed rivals of Caesar were nothing more than simple labourers.

(E. de Pressense, D. D.)


1. Nothing arrests our attention more forcibly than the extraordinary claims our Lord asserted for Himself. Commingled with the most lowly humility, there was the quiet assumption of an authority more than regal. How would it have sounded had Aristotle said, "I am the light of the world"? had Socrates said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour"? &c.; had Plato said, "I am the resurrection and the life"? And yet these amazing declarations fall as naturally from the lips of Christ as dew falls upon the grateful flowers. To the Jewish people there was no greater name than that of Moses; but Christ put the crown on the head of Moses when He said, "He wrote of Me." David's memory was a heritage of glory; but Christ reminded the people that while David sat on a thone, He was His subject, and called Him Lord. Solomon was a synonym for all regal splendour; but Christ said, "A greater than Solomon is here." All these astounding claims find their justification in two incontestable facts — first, that they were true; and second, that it was necessary to assert them. Their truth was demonstrated by all subsequent events, and becomes increasingly manifest with the progress of the ages. Their proclamation was necessary to the accomplishment of the great purposes for which He became incarnate. To have withheld any essential fact about Himself would have been, not humility, but treason to the truth itself and hurtful to humanity. It was therefore perfectly in harmony with the great ends of His mission that, with nothing but a retinue of fishermen in His train, and that at the very moment when He was about to be betrayed by one of His own followers, He should have quietly said to them, "I appoint you a kingdom." And the strangest fact in the annals of government is this, that, after the lapse of near two thousand years, it numbers more subjects than ever acknowledged allegiance to any other sovereign.

2. The kingdom was His, too, by appointment and by purchase. He would not receive it from any hand but that of the Highest. When the god of this world offered Him all the kingdoms for a single act of homage, He rebuked the tempter. When the people wished to make Him a king, He resisted, for He had heard the declaration of the Father, "I have set My King upon the holy hill of Zion."

II. THIS KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD, and differs from all others —

1. In its origin. It was not the product of the historic forces then at work in the world, such as give rise to the kingdoms of men. There was nothing in the drift of the times to develop it. There was no existing philosophy, religion, or nation out of which such a kingdom could have emerged. If it could not have come from —(1) The Greek, worshipping physical and intellectual beauty, much less from —(2) The Roman, who had now entered upon the darkest period of his intellectual and moral history.(3) Nor was it the product of dormant forces in the Jewish nation; on the contrary, the principles of the kingdom and the spirit which animated them were diametrically opposed both to the principles and spirit of the Judaism of the time.

2. In its purpose. The design of an earthly kingdom is to secure the temporal interests of its subjects, and the kingdom of Christ incidentally cherishes the temporal interests of man; but its grand aim is to restore the lost image of God in the soul, to found a kingdom which will include what is best in all religions, being larger than any ecclesiastical organization.

3. In its character, as an inward and spiritual kingdom, in contradistinction to all that is outward and material. We invariably associate with the word kingdom the idea of territory; the idea of power, as expressed by fleets and armies; the idea of luxury and state, as displayed in palaces and ceremonies; the idea of a succession to the throne, elective or hereditary. But in the kingdom which is not of this world there are none of these accessories. It is limited by no boundaries; it is cumbered by no pomp or insignia of authority, &c. It is a kingdom in which the subjects do not elect their king, but one in which the King elects His subject. It is not a kingdom in which one king succeeds another, but in which one immortal King reigns through all generations. It is not a kingdom in which there are inequalities of hereditary rank. No coronet could add to the glory of that title, and no wealth could augment the riches of that joint-heir with Jesus Christ.

4. In its foundation, which is —(1) In the conscience, and so regulates all the movements of the life.(2) In the intellect. It so illumines the understanding, furnishes new ideas for the imagination, and fills the memory with sweet and sacred treasures.(3) In the heart, and purifies all of its emotions by the expulsive power of a new affection.(4) It sets up the kingdom of truth in the soul.

5. In its duration, which is everlasting.

III. But while this kingdom is spiritual and inward, it is not one of secret experiences only; it is one which KINDLES A NEW LIFE AND BECOMES A KINGDOM OF POWER. In the estimation of men of the world this kingdom is an airy, unreal thing. They can understand a kingdom that has a visible king in it, with a palace, &c.; but a spiritual citizenship is an empty, abstract ideal. Nevertheless, it is a kingdom of power, as is proved —

1. By its early triumphs. Its first triumphs were in the land where it originated: under a single sermon thousands of men entered upon a new life. It pervaded Judea, Asia Minor, Europe, that by becoming European it might become universal. It seized upon great cities — Antioch, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Corinth, Athens, Rome.

2. By the individual transformations it effects. The gospel of this kingdom declares its ability to regenerate men. This is a unique claim, setting it in sharp contrast with all other religions. If it can re-create men, then its Divine origin is demonstrated. It was the objection urged by Celsus, that it undertook impossible things, such as "making men over again." The Christian Fathers, in their reply, asserted that the illustrations of the power of Christianity to do this very thing were visible everywhere. Does any candid man believe that there was no radical difference between , Ignatius, , Clement, and , and the educated gentlemen of the pagan civilizations? What would he say of Fenelon contrasted with Mirabeau, Pascal with Voltaire, Henry Martyn with Thomas Paine?Conclusion: It is evident, from what has been said, that —

1. The gospel never loses its power — never grows old. The Cross of Christ is still the world's great magnet.

2. Though the kingdom of Christ is not of this world, that does not imply that we have no relations to any other government than His. The civil power is ordained of God, and we are commanded to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's." Every good citizen is under obligation to the government whose laws protect him and whose departments are so arranged as to minister to his convenience and advantage in numberless ways. It is greatly to be desired that the relations between the Church and the State should ever be those of mutual respect, goodwill, and confidence. The Church dishonours its own high calling and mistakes its true mission in the world when, by any ecclesiastical legislation, it attempts to interfere with the functions of civil government. And the State transcends its authority, and invades a province over which it has no jurisdiction, when it undertakes to control Church life and order.

3. Though this kingdom is not of this world, it is the kingdom the world most needs. Its restraining, conservative power is needed to secure its greatest temporal interests.

(M. D. Hoge, D. D.)

It will be necessary to guard this declaration from two misconstructions.

1. It does not imply indifference to the political government of this world.

2. It does not imply monastic seclusion from the engagements of this world. What, then, is the Saviour's meaning? I answer — Christ's kingdom is a purely spiritual constitution. He came not to found a physical empire, but to establish the sovereignty of great and holy principles. When may it be justly said that a man's kingdom is of this world? I answer —

I. WHEN MAN'S ENERGIES ARE EXCLUSIVELY DEVOTED TO THE ACCUMULATION OF EARTHLY TREASURES. There are men whose creed may be condensed into one word — Gold! They look at all nature and institutions through this medium — Gold. When they gaze upon the landscape, it is not to admire the undulation of hill and dale, the stately wood or swelling river, but to speculate upon its properties as a farm.

II. WHEN MAN FAILS TO EXERT ANY EFFORT FOR THE MORAL ELEVATION OF HIS RACE. Some men profess that their benefactions are known to none but God and the recipients. Others determine not to let the left hand know what the right hand doeth; and this is by no means an unwise policy where the right hand is doing nothing, and therefore has no tidings to communicate.

III. WHEN MAN DRAWS HIS HIGHEST JOYS FROM THE FASCINATIONS OF THIS LIFE. The carnal mind knows nothing of any joy but that which flows through earthly channels. His highest study is the promotion of self-comfort. When can it be truly affirmed that a man's kingdom is not of this world? I answer —

I. WHEN MAN REGARDS THE WORLD AS A MEANS RATHER THAN AN END. The watchword of the Christian is, "Here we have no continuing city." He uses this world as the builder uses scaffolding, merely for temporary purposes, or as a waiting-room in which he tarries till the chariot of death shall bear him home, or as a school in which he prosecutes his rudimentary studies, with a view to the engagements of a higher academy; he never looks upon this world as a final resting-place. If he has wealth, it is to him a means of usefulness; if he has influence, he employs it in the promotion of the highest good.


III. WHEN MAN CAN CHEERFULLY RELINQUISH HIS EARTHLY POSSESSIONS. It is hard work for a monarch to abandon his kingdom. Into whatever region he may pass he feels himself an exile; however far into distant realms he may travel, he can never find a throne; his kingdom is behind him, and must remain there for ever. Not so with the Christian. He has not entered upon his kingdom yet; he is born to it, but at present is journeying towards the land in which he shall reign as king and serve as son. Under these circumstances he cannot feel the strong attachment to the charms of this world which binds the hearts of those who are without hope as to the mysterious future. The man whose kingdom is of this world is sorely tried when death demands a separation. Young man! that which engages most of your affections is your kingdom.

(J. Parker, D.D.)

Christ is the only Founder of a religion in the history of mankind which is totally unconnected with all human policy and government, and, therefore, totally unconducive to any worldly purpose whatever; all others, Mohammed, Numa, and even Moses himself, blended their religious institutions with their civil, and by them obtained dominion over their respective peoples; but Christ neither aimed at nor would accept of any such power; He rejected every object which other men pursue, and made choice of all those which others fly from and are afraid of. He refused power, riches, honours, pleasure, and courted poverty, ignominy, tortures, and death. Many have been the enthusiasts and imposters who have endeavonred to impose on the world pretended revelations, and some of them from pride, obstinacy, or principle have gone so far as to lay down their lives rather than retract; but I defy history to show one who ever made his own sufferings and death a necessary part of his original plan, and essential to his mission.

(Soame Jenyns.)

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