Seeking the Kingdom of God Instead of Church

Jesus said that we should seek the kingdom of God.  He never said anything similar about church.  In fact, He spoke very little about church, only mentioning it by name two times in the gospel accounts of His life.  On the other hand, He spoke repeatedly about the kingdom of God (sometimes calling it “the kingdom of heaven” or even just “the kingdom”) and urged His followers to seek it and to prepare to enter it.  From time to time, someone will make the argument that the church is the kingdom, but that flies in the face of the rest of the New Testament which depicts the church as preparing for the coming of the kingdom, not thinking it is the kingdom.  For this reason, and others, the idea of the church being the kingdom gets dropped pretty quickly.

If the church of the New Testament wasn’t the kingdom, then today’s church, with its thousands of denominations, certainly cannot be.  Jesus said any kingdom divided against itself could not stand.  Today’s church is nothing if not divided.

None of this is to criticize those who attend church in search of the living God.  It is merely to say that attending church is not something God requires.  Moreover, attending church often leads people away from a personal relationship with God because the needs of the church as an institution take precedence over the commandments of God.  For example, a church has to collect an offering to be able to pay its bills, but if all its members are serving the poor and giving them money instead of coming to church and putting the money in the offering plate then the church will go bankrupt.  Thus, the church member is forced to choose between obeying God and supporting the church.

It’s easy when you’re a church leader to think that you’re serving God when you try to grow your church.  I know I fell prey to this thinking when I was a pastor years ago.  I wanted people to serve God and I saw their serving church as a way to do that, not realizing that I was adding to their burdens by needing their time and money.  Additionally, I was unconsciously conveying to them that they were serving God when they were coming to church when God was wanting them to serve Him in all their daily activities – not merely add a weekly activity to their already overburdened lives.

If you want to grow in your personal relationship with God then you’re simply going to have to go to…God.  God came in the flesh, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, to put a face on God.  So, you don’t have to relate to God as some ethereal, inscrutable Being.  Just relate to God as if He’s Jesus – because He is!

Keep His commandments, the most fundamental of which is to love:  Him first, others second, self last.  Be His disciple day by day.  If someone wrongs you, turn the other cheek.  Above all, follow Him.  Not church.  Not me.  Not anyone else.  Him.  This…is the kingdom of God.

For more context, see this overview.

See also:  Spiritual Christianity versus Social Christianity

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ Changed Everything

Why the Bible Can Be Trusted 

The purpose of this blog is to provide information about Jesus to those who want to hear about Him without having to join something.

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72 Responses to Seeking the Kingdom of God Instead of Church

  1. Yes! This is so true. The Church is a place where people go to worship God. When God gets put on a pedestal by the church, the church makes itself out to be the ones who provided the pedestal, and therefore need your love, admiration and… MONEY!

    Churches are necessary. Yes, NECESSARY. However, they are not needed. What is needed is the love of God. That provides churches. Churches will never die until the love of God has gone away.

    Churches do need money to survive, but Jesus thrives on our love of Him, not the church.

    Great post.

  2. wonders@google.com says:

    Think for a moment what will happen if all churches are removed from the world for a generation as we permit individuals to find God on their own? Problem with bad ideas is they are mostly half truth. All purpose God never created anything not necessary. He created His church and promised to continue to build it. Human logic is dumb of rubbish that can not stand the wisdom of eternal God. Better let no frustration with people and past experience deny you of the blessing God reserves for Hie Church (Eph 4:11). Jesus Christ is coming back “only” for His Church and you better find your way there. => We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming.Heb 10:25

  3. Worshipping in Church is not necessary. Isn’t there something about going into a closet, away from where anyone can see you, and praying?

    While we don’t need the church, the church does need us. Without us, the church subsides.

    Jesus lives regardless.

    • Mike Gantt says:

      Worshiping in Church is not necessary.

      Right. It’s worshiping everywhere and at all times that’s important.

      Isn’t there something about going into a closet, away from where anyone can see you, and praying?

      Yes. Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 6.

      While we don’t need the church, the church does need us. Without us, the church subsides.

      That’s proof that the church is no longer a divine institution as it was in the New Testament.

      Jesus lives regardless.

      Yes! And that’s why we should follow Him and not church.

      • Luray lawson says:

        I know that if you realy do worship God in Spirit and in truth in the church buildings they ask you you to leave or try to cast devils out of you! God help up in these last days we have only programs we have left the true Spirit of worship out!

    • Luray lawson says:

      The reply to that, this is my opinion I have my own if we have a relationship with the Lord we pray all the time not just so other people can hear us. or we go to church together together in the name of the Lord he is in our midst we go to assemble ourselves together to edify one another encourage one another to hear what the word of the Lord is telling us and also to be thankful unto him and praise him and worship him in spirit and in truth nowadays I find it they won’t program they don’t want to love and worship and adore the Lord this is so sad in my heart allowed to have fellowship and sing and praise and make melody in my heart and to the Lord the sad thing is now they don’t want you to worship God in spirit and in truth they want their programs they have too many tickets too many yard sales I can just do all that mess at home I don’t want to go to church to have yard sales in Cookeville to make money I want to go love and adore than one and made me and created me to worship Him in spirit and in truth and to read his word and I understand him

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  25. Collins says:

    Yes dats realy true..
    The bible says if someone is sick the elders in the (church) should gather and pray for the person who is sick ane the person will be healed,,
    why are we decieving ourselves wit false doctrines..
    Question:if one does not understand the scriptures,who should the person consult to be clear…

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  28. Brandon E says:

    Hi Mike,
    Why does one have to chose between the kingdom (living in the Lord’s presence in our private activities) and the corporate life of the church?

    If the corporate life of the church didn’t distract necessarily distract people from Christ in the first century, why must it do so in later centuries? Because (as you claim) the kingdom has come and replaced the church? But where does the Scripture say that the kingdom would replace the church, making the church apostate and obsolete?

    That your personal experience has apparently been with dead, lifeless organization in which “church” is little or nothing more than tithing and going to a building once or twice a week doesn’t mean that all communal life in Christ is this way.

    Besides, as I said on in the TGC, the apostles were not just concerned for individual morality and spirituality, but for the corporate expression of Christ’s Body in which–as in a human body–the whole functioning together was greater than the sum of its individual parts (Eph. 4:1-16; 2:19-22; Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:14-27; Col. 2:2, 19; 1 Pet. 2:1-10; John 17:20-23). Isolated individuals cannot adequately and richly express the life of Christ to the rest of creation any more than an isolated member of my physical body can express me. It’s not isolated individuals but the church which is His Body is the fullness of the One who fills all in all (Eph. 1:22-23). I see no reason why the kingdom should annul rather than enhance these principles.

    • Mike Gantt says:

      Where is the church today that teaches its disciples to imitate Jesus? Where is the church that graduates its disciples once they’ve achieved this goal?

      Where is the church that does not seek donations and volunteers? Where is the church today that dies for its Lord?

      Yes, the apostles were concerned for the corporate expression of Christ’s body. Where is that concern today? You have been unable to show me the church today that pursues ecumenism and doctrinal purity simultaneously as the apostolic church did.

      • Brandon E says:

        The reason why I’m holding off on answering you is because you seem to hold to sectarian concepts about the church, and your claims about why “the church” is only for the first century are inconsistent and don’t make any sense.

        -You criticize the moral and spiritual condition of today’s “churches,” but idealize the moral and spiritual condition of the church in the first century, which had plenty of problems with heresies, immorality, etc. as testified by the epistles.
        -You criticize today’s Christendom for not being organizationally or visible one, but the church was organizationally or visibly one well after the first century.

        I don’t doubt that you sincerely realize that there is something fundamentally wrong with denominations and divisions. I do doubt your sincerity about seeking a genuine church, because you dogmatically teach that the church was replaced by the kingdom and tell others on the assumed authority of the Scriptures to not seek a genuine church but only “the kingdom.” The conclusion does not flow from the premise. It’s a logical leap that shows that something else is operating in you that you claim is the Spirit’s witness in the Scripture, but I have reason to suspect that it is a subjective, individualistic, sectarian spirit and tendency. In short, I’m not persuaded to think that it would even be profitable for you or for me if you did see a genuine church, unless you first repented of your inconsistent, sectarian doctrines about the church being made apostate, obsolete, and replaced by the kingdom in the first century.

        As for your questions, I don’t think that even the first century church as it actually existed could meet your requirements. Or if it did, you would have to admit that the church after the first century could meet the requirements as well, and discard your false concept that the church was replaced by the kingdom in the first century.


        Where is the church today that teaches its disciples to imitate Jesus?

        Well, many congregations do teach this.


        Where is the church that graduates its disciples once they’ve achieved this goal?

        Can any one “graduate” from arriving at imitating the Lord Jesus?

        And if the apostles were indeed concerned for the corporate expression of Christ’s body, why would a genuine church want to “graduate” individuals from the life of the church?


        Where is the church that does not seek donations and volunteers?

        Such things of course can be abused or made very outward, but I don’t see what is inherently wrong with this. It depends upon how it’s presented handled. For instance, the apostles collected donations for other churches (2 Cor. 11:8), appointed elders and deacons, and had the “right” to be financially supported by others (2 Cor. 9:6-7). Many congregations operate on a conflict of interest between “clergy” and “laity” but when there is no clergy-laity system many of these kinds of problems subside.


        Where is the church today that dies for its Lord?

        In Philippians 2:20-21, the apostle Paul said, “For I have no one like-souled who will genuinely care for what concerns you;/ For all seek their own things, not the things of Christ Jesus.” Hebrews indicates that many Jewish believers were shrinking back to Judaism from Christ and forsook assembling together for fear of trial and persecution. The church prior to 70AD wasn’t an ideal church in this regard. You seem to have an over-idealized concept of what the church was actually like in the first century.

        And there are many in the churches after the first century that were persecuted, imprisoned, and martyred. Today, there are laws in many countries that prevent this kind of thing, but even in recent decades many churches have been persecuted, imprisoned, and even killed, for example, in radical Islamic countries or Communist China. For those who live in countries where such a thing is improbable, many do live sacrificially in certain ways by faith, devoting much time and energy to practical service, reading and ministering the word of God, gospel missions, etc.


        You have been unable to show me the church today that pursues ecumenism and doctrinal purity simultaneously as the apostolic church did.

        Well, I haven’t tried yet, so I can’t hardly “have been” unable. I can’t answer this question until I understand your requirements for “ecumenicism.” I don’t remember if you answered this question before, but here goes:
        If a church seeks to practice one universal church and one church in one city, but many organizations (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, non-denominational, etc.) insist upon meeting separately based upon impure or non-essential doctrines as criterions for fellowship (e.g., the Roman pontiff is the visible head of the church, the 5 points of Calvinism, baptism by immersion, etc.) would that show that there is no scriptural church at all, or only that those who insist upon meeting separately are not scriptural?

        As for doctrinal purity, I’m not sure that you could find any church that would agree with your sectarian doctrines and therefore pass your criterion for purity. For one thing, you claim that the Lord Jesus’ coming was fulfilled in 70AD at which time the church was replaced by the kingdom, which the apostles did not explicitly teach, and which annuls the church in the first place. You stridently criticize the concept of the trinity as impure and not apostolic, but you claim that the Father became the Son and ceased to be the Father, even though the apostles portray both the Father and the Son as co-existing simultaneously and interacting, etc.

        • Mike Gantt says:

          “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.” – 1 Corinthians 1:10

          This is, of course, Paul’s instruction to the believers in Corinth. I presume you’d agree that it’s the way he felt about the church in every city. How can believers today obey it?

          Here’s another example: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:23-25

          How can a sincere believer today obey this verse? When you try to obey it where do you go that you find yourself assembling together (as opposed to separately, in a denominational or nondenominational church)?

          The apostles had to deal with many problems in the churches, but they never wavered from the idea of one church. Remember the church was spiritual Israel, and the apostles knew from Israel’s history as well as from Jesus’ teaching that a house divided against itself was destined to fall.

          • Brandon E says:

            The apostle Paul wrote 1 Cor. 1:10 because there were in fact divisions or parties (vv. 11-13; 11:18-19) among the believers within the one church in Corinth. A similar word was said to the church in Philippi (Phil. 2:2, cf. 4:20). The problem then was that not everyone thought the same thing; but organizationally the church was still one church. The problem today is that not everyone thinks the same thing, and they then form denominations around doctrines and practices that they realize are not common to all genuine believers in Christ, thus creating divisions in the Body of Christ.

            So how can the believers practice one church today? By dropping all the names (denominations) that divide and seeking to meet as the one church with one church in each city that receives all the believers. This is a different stand, position, approach, or basis for meeting than non-denominationalism, which typically lack the scriptural vision of one church and one church in each city, or any concern about it.

            Now, surely we would expect that many organizations would insist upon keeping their denominational structures and meeting separately based on their distinctive doctrines and practices. Even many supposedly “non-denominational” congregations would likely insist upon meeting separately, for the sake of their own preferences (a certain pastor, way of running things, style of music, racial demographics, etc.). But would this mean that there is no scriptural church in that city, or just that those who insisted upon meeting separately are wrong?

            If only a minority met in the scriptural way, and the majority insisted upon meeting separately, would that show that God was not concerned for the scriptural way for believers to meet as the church, and invalidate the whole endeavor to meet as the church? I don’t think so, any more than than God desiring us to seek the kingdom and there being few who find it would invalidate His concern for the kingdom, or the apostle Paul’s concern that everyone think the same thing and yet there being many disagreements would invalidate his desire or show that God was not behind it. Paul wanted all the believers to think the same thing (that same, one thing being Jesus Christ), but actual result was largely “For I have no one like-souled who will genuinely care for what concerns you; / For all seek their own things, not the things of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:20-21) and “This you know, that all who are in Asia turned away from me, of whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes” (2 Tim. 1:15). But this doesn’t mean that God didn’t want those in the churches to seek the things of Christ, or to heed the apostle Paul’s ministry.

            That said, the church still met as one church with one church in each city well after the first century. It continued in this way until the great schism between the east and west in the 11th century, which exposed the hierarchy and centralization that had been developing since the time of Constantine and the ensuing mixture of church and state. So I don’t see how can say that the church was only practicable the first century. I mean, I understand that you think that the kingdom replaced the church in the first century. I just don’t see this anywhere in Scripture; one would really have to want to see in Scripture to come up with it. It seems that you overreacted to the poor shape of today’s Christendom and made a logical leap to arrive at this concept.

            • Mike Gantt says:

              There is a sense in which church can be practiced today: How to Be in the One True Church

              • Brandon E says:

                I believe that all the genuine believers are part of the universal church, such that in God’s eyes the universal church is all the believers, and the church in a given city is all the believers in the city. The church is the people, not a building or organization.

                The question is how to practice being the church in the scriptural way. And here I think you’re holding to a false dichotomy when you said “They don’t assemble to each other; they assemble to Him.” The church in the first century assembled together unto Him (of course, not perfectly unto Him, since the first century church had plenty of problems). This did not stop in the first century but continued well past it.

                • Mike Gantt says:

                  Let’s use the terms visible church and invisible church to which I think you are alluding. In New Testament times, no such distinction was made. Why do you think that is?

                  • Brandon E says:

                    I would say firstly that there is an evident distinction between the universal church and local churches. For example, in Matthew 16:18 the Lord spoke of building His church and the gates of Hades not prevailing against it–this is the universal church, the church entire, that includes all the people in it. But in Matthew 18 he says that if your brother refuses to hear the testimony of two or three witnesses, then we should “tell it to the church; and if he refuses to hear the church also, let him be to you just like the bGentile and the tax collector” (v. 17). Obviously, this can’t refer to the entire church across the world with all the people in it coming together to hear the case, but only the local church in which the person is in.

                    Second, I would also say there is in fact a evident distinction between the church as a mysterious, spiritual organism, the Body of Christ composed of people (Christ as the Head and the many members), and the church as the the called out assembly evident in the New Testament, having visible organization as local churches on earth. The church is not a physical organization, but if you took away all the local churches in the first century, where would the church be?

                    At any rate, I don’t see how this point is even worth discussing with you, because you say that the church was only for the first century, but the practice of one church and one church in each city continued well past the first century. Whatever point you would make to say that the church is not for today but only for the first century could not be applied to the church which continued to meet as one church with once church in each city well past the first century.

                    Your concept hangs entirely on your idea that the kingdom came in the first century and replaced the church. I don’t see any Scripture evidence for such a thing, or any historical evidence for it. The “apostasy” passages say nothing about a complete apostasy of the whole church on earth, and why should an invisible “day of the Lord” mark the end of the church on earth? After the first century the one church continued to prevail and proliferate with many people being added to Christ and the church, even with Roman executioners believing seeing how the martyrs died for their Lord, with blood penetrating the most hardened hearts. The church at this time was most like the persecuted church in Smyrna, which the Lord did not rebuke (Rev. 2:8-11).

                    • Mike Gantt says:

                      Since you did not answer my question, I will. In New Testament times there was only one church. That is, the visible church and the invisible church were one and the same church. The reason Jesus gave the instruction He did in Matthew 18 is that if the apostles allowed sin in any church, the whole body was thereby corrupted. This is what is behind Paul’s directive to the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 5. If they had let the sinner stay in fellowship, then the whole church at Corinth would have been spiritually tainted, which would have tainted the entire body of Christ. Then the only thing left to do would be for the apostles to deal with the church Corinth as a whole – forcing it to choose between repentance or rejection. The apostles could not allow sin in the camp. Leaven could not be allowed in the lump. The apostles took this issue seriously, because the Lord had made the point so forcefully. The saints could only be bound in righteousness; if they bound themselves to unrighteousness, they would suffer the consequences of that unrighteousness.

                      Churches today do not take the sin issue (i.e. moral purity) as seriously and therefore have to have this concept of a visible church and an invisible church to justify the sin in the camp.

                      By the way, regarding the Matthew 16 promise, be aware that the gates of Hades indeed did not prevail against Christ’s church. It was emptied at the Lord’s coming, and thus was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20). If you don’t think the Lord has come then the dead are not yet raised and everyone is still going below to Hades when they die. Fortunately, this is not the case for the Lord has come…just as He promised. See The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven for a fuller explanation of how Hades (Sheol) ceased being the destination of the dead.

  29. Brandon E says:

    I did answer with what I believed about the issue. The Bible does make distinctions between the universal church and a local church, and the church as a spiritual organism and the organization it has on earth.

    And Mike, do you really know the real situation of every congregation on the earth, and can verify that they don’t take sin as seriously as you think Matt. 18 and 1 Cor. 5 requires?

    The concept that everyone “goes to heaven” apart from a bodily resurrection of the dead is your radically dualistic concept, not the scriptural revelation.

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  35. Judy says:

    You are very wrong son. Have you studied the Word of God? Church is all through the Bible. Revelations mentions the church at least 7 times. Revelations 2:11. A few other places…1 Timothy 3:15, Philippians 3:6, Ephesians 5:23, 24, 25, 27, 32, Galatians 1:22,
    1 Corinthians 11:18, 14:35, Romans 16:4, Acts 20:28, Matthew. 16:18, 18:17. Just to mention a few. As far as what you mentioned about church in your blog…you haven’t found the right church. God warns you of false organizations who call themselves churches and carry out false religions. The church you spoke of was ran by man and not by God.

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