The Arena of Christ's Kingdom

The Philadelphia Eagles knocked off the New England Patriots this month in what was “one of the greatest Super Bowls ever played.”

But nearly as stunning as the big game was the host stadium.

Shaped like a Viking ship (since it’s the home field of the Minnesota Vikings), U.S. Bank Stadium has 200,000-square-feet of windows that reveal the sky and the skyline, and seats for as many as 73,000 screaming fans—some of which sit just 40 feet from the sidelines.

This stadium not only made the game possible. It made it better.

The same is true for the arena of Christ’s kingdom. Our human society is the host stadium for the drama of redemptive history. Christ uses it to make that drama possible—and make it better.

Imagine if the Super Bowl were played in a broken-down stadium, on a dusty field pitted with dangerous craters, rocks and jagged pieces of metal fallen from the rafters. Would the players play nearly as well in such conditions? Would they play at all? And would anyone bother to watch?

Yet that’s a pretty good description of the arena in which Christ’s church operates. Christians live in constant danger of injuries that can and do seriously hinder them spiritually—if not sideline them altogether.

This is why God the Father not only made Christ head over the church, but also king over everything in the world. The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:22-23, “And he (God the Father) put all things under his (Christ’s) feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body.”

The key phrase “to the church” means that Christ, in His role as Mediator, controls everything in the universe— including things that are not spiritual or not redeemed—to bring people to the church and to salvation from their sins.

On this point, Scottish theologian William Symington wrote that Christ’s mediatorial kingdom is both universal and spiritual: “We call it a spiritual kingdom, inasmuch as the great design of its existence is spiritual, notwithstanding that, among the things connected with it, there may be many that are material, even worldly.”[1]

Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch theologian who wrote extensively on Christ’s kingdom, specifically likened the material creation and worldly human society to a platform for God’s redemptive work.[2]

“It is not that the church was saved in order to abandon everything outside the church to general ruin …,” Kuyper wrote in _Common Grace, _which posits a non-saving divine grace given to everyone and everything. “Most surely the purpose (of common grace) was so that God’s church could find a place to set its foot, and also so that the church of the new covenant would gather together believers from all peoples and nations.”[3]

Imagine a world without food—there would be no one to preach the gospel and no one to hear it.

Or imagine a world without medicine—how many fewer people would have ever lived or lived long enough to hear the gospel?

Or imagine a world in which literally every man abandoned his children as soon as they arrived, choosing instead to pursue romantic attachments that require less sacrifice. Could anyone in such a world ever trust a God who calls Himself Father?

Or imagine a society in which every person lied all the time? Would anyone ever believe a sermon claiming to be the Truth?

Human society in ruin is an arena in which the gospel does not advance—where the drama grinds to a halt.

This is roughly the outcome feared by the Minnesota Vikings. The domed roof of their previous stadium had collapsed five times. They worried that stadium could no longer host games. So they—and the taxpayers of Minnesota—paid a whopping $1.1 billion to construct U.S. Bank Stadium.

Likewise, Christians, as they are regenerated and inspired by the drama on the field of Christ’s redemption, should work to preserve the arena around that drama.

This is true for two reasons: 1) because Christ’s world-sustaining work, through people, makes the church drama possible; and 2) because God is glorified when the arena for His church is maintained and made beautiful.

The drama of church requires people who are alive. So doctors, nurses, hospitals and health insurance plans keep the church going.

The drama of church requires people who are fed. So farmers, bakers, restaurateurs and moms keep the church going.

The drama of church requires the possibility of real love and fatherhood. So any man who comes home to his wife and kids is keeping the church going.

The drama of church requires some understanding of truth. So anyone who tells or promotes truth—even journalists, despite their flaws—are advancing Christ’s kingdom.

These things are critical to Christ’s work of redemption. They are not the same thing as that redemptive work. They aren’t the main event. But without them, the main event literally would be canceled.

These things also contribute to God’s glory—just as U.S. Bank Stadium made the Super Bowl better.

Imagine if the Super Bowl were played on just a 120-yard piece of grass, with only enough room for the players and few fans to stand along the sidelines. No loudspeaker and music. No thunderous roars from the grandstands. Even with Tom Brady and Nick Foles on the field, would anyone pay to watch? Would the TV networks broadcast? And if they did, would anyone bother to tune in?

Christ uses our so-called secular work—done in ways that advance such biblical values as life, shalom, love and truth—to maintain and even improve an arena around His church, which adds to the glory God receives from Christ’s redemption. Not separately from Christ’s redemption, but in support of it.

Kuyper’s quote above on common grace ends with this additional thought: “But its purpose was also so that in a proper sense God the Lord would continue his work in that broad sphere of human life, not unto the saving of souls but no less unto the praise and glory of his great name.”[4]


_[1] William Symington, _Messiah the Prince, or the Mediatorial Dominion of Jesus Christ (Pittsburgh, Pa., The Christian Statesman Press, 1999), 43.

_[2] I learned the platform metaphor from S.U. Zuidema, “Common Grace and Christian Action in Abraham Kuyper,” in _Communication and Confrontation (Assen: Van Gorcum/Kampen: Kok, 1972, 52-105. The article is also available here: Zuidema wrote, “Common grace provides the platform, as it were, on which all these cultural tasks are to be acted out. Common grace is the presupposition of the possibility of Christian cultural activity. Common grace makes this activity born of particular grace possible.”

[3] Abraham Kuyper, Common Grace, vol. 1, pt. 1, tr. by Nelson D. Kloosterman and Ed M. van der Maas (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Christian’s Library Press, 2013), 113-114. Emphasis mine. Kuyper’s route to the platform image—his interpretation that God’s covenant with Noah formed a relationship with all of creation, independent of God's chosen people—is not one I agree with. Nevertheless, the image is useful. It neatly captures how Christ as mediatorial king uses the secular to advance the sacred.

[4] Kuyper, 114.