Luke 22:29 - The Covenanted Kingdom
The whole of the Bible is important as God's Word. But there are clearly some passages of the Bible that are considered more important than others. Here I want to put forward an unlikely candidate as "a key passage" in the Bible. What do we mean when we speak of a "key passage" of the Bible?
The giving of the Bible is like the weaving of a tapestry. It wasn't made in a day but developed over hundreds of years. At times little work was done on it but at other times there was a flurry of activity. Although parts of the central theme of the tapestry of revelation could be seen from its earliest time, it wasn't until the final burst of revelation and until the finishing touches were made that the meaning of all that had been displayed earlier was clearly seen.
This is a tapestry that is rich, varied and colourful. The central idea is dominant throughout but it is portrayed using a multiplicity of different themes, all of which contribute their own colour to the overall pattern. Around the edges there are many interwoven subsidiary themes which provide background to the main idea. It is all colourful — the brilliance of the central idea being set against the blackest possible of backgrounds.
In other words, the Bible is a revelation whose contents were given little by little, the later parts making clear the earlier parts. It isn't set out like a Systematic Theology in an orderly fashion, nor is it simple in its structure. Rather it contains a whole series of ideas and images, gradually developed, which, when seen in total, build up an impressive picture of God and his dealings in grace with his people.
This being so, a key passage is one that depicts something of special importance to the central idea of salvation or which takes up subsidiary themes and weaves them all together in a significant pattern.
I would submit that Luke 22:29 is such a key passage: "And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me". In ten simple Greek words, it weaves together Christ and his people; the Father and the Son; covenant and kingdom. Our aim is to explore this tiny detail of the rich tapestry of revelation by identifying the various strands that are interwoven here.
Christ and His People
We all have heard of the "I am" sayings of Jesus and perhaps we hold them all in our minds: "I am the way, the truth and the life"; "I am the door", etc. They are specially important in that they reveal varied aspects of Christ's ministry. But there are "The Father, I and you" sayings that are just as significant. They depict a close parallel between the experience of Christ and the experience of his people. And this is one of them.
See the same pattern in the following: "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you" (John 15:9); "As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world" (John 17:18; 20:21); "Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me" (John 6:57).
Important aspects of Christ's experience are covered by these verses: the Father's love was once and for all set upon him when he was chosen as the Saviour of his people; the Father's mandate brought him into the world; the Father's care sustained him in the world and the Father's promised kingdom becomes his on the successful completion of his task. And each of these stages runs parallel to the experience of the believer: Jesus' love was once and for all set upon his own who were assigned to him for redemption; Jesus' mandate — "Go into all the world and make disciples..." — defined their missionary task; Jesus' life nourishes them in this world and Jesus endows them with a kingdom.
The verse we are considering is a key verse because it helps to express this unique relationship between Christ and his people. This thread of the tapestry binds together in our thinking the experience of Christ and of his own. We are one with him because we are in Christ, united to him at each stage of his experience. Through this union we participate with him in these experiences.
This is the concept common in Paul's writings where he speaks of being "in Christ" — a concept which lies at the very heart of his explanation of the nature of salvation. But here is the same idea, figuring prominently in the revelation of truth conveyed by our Lord.
This alone makes this an important passage, because this is such a rich idea. It assures us that in him we have obeyed the law; that in him we have paid the consequences of the broken law; and that in him we have been raised with Christ and have been made to sit with him in heavenly places. All that is his is ours because the thread that represents his life represents ours as well.
There is nothing so calculated to awaken praise and trust in the perfection and fulness of the salvation provided as the awareness of this parallel between our experience and that of Christ. The "The Father, I and you" sayings are just as important as the "I am" sayings. That's why this is a key passage.
Father and Son
In this passage we have a basic feature of the plan of salvation described in terms of an arrangement between the Father and the Son: the Father appointed that a kingdom belong to his Son.
We have no problem identifying when that happened and what the conferring of the kingdom involved. The greatest commentary on this is Psalm 2 where the LORD proclaims that he has installed his King in Zion. This King is the Son, who then recites the "decree" by which he was appointed. It includes the promise: "ask of me and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron sceptre" (Psalm 2:6-9). Of that appointment Jesus speaks in Luke 22:29.
That was an appointment that came to its full expression when Christ was raised from the dead, appointed a Prince and a Saviour (Acts 5:31). Then he was made to sit at the Father's right hand, waiting for all his enemies to be brought into submission (Acts 2:34-35). Of this conferment of a kingdom he himself speaks to his disciples: "all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me" (Matthew 28:18)
What is obscured by translation of our verse into English is that the word "confer" or "appoint" is a word frequently used in connection with the making of a covenant. It is in fact the verb (δίάτίθημί) connected with the normal word translated covenant (δίάθηκή). 1
The introduction of the covenant idea gives the utmost solemnity to the arrangement described. There are two acts of covenant conferment. The Father's conferment of a kingdom on Christ and Christ's conferment of it on his people. The one became a full reality when Christ completed that task that had involved him in such humiliation and when he was raised from the dead and enthroned in heaven. The other becomes a reality as we experience in practice what it means to be united to Christ. In him we reign. All things are therefore ours (1 Corinthians 3:21), and, as the Father had promised the Son: "ask and I will make the nations your inheritance", so the Son says to his own: "ask and it will be given you" (Matthew 7:7).
Luke 22:29 is a key passage because it describes salvation in covenant terms and because it shows the priority of the covenant relationship between the Father and the Son. The covenant on which God's dealings with his people rests is not one made between God and his people, but one made between the Father and the Son. The former is modelled on the latter.
Nor is this simply a fine idea. It is calculated again to remind us of the depth and security of the plan of salvation. The eternal decree regulating a covenant between Father and Son is the securest possible basis for the confident enjoyment of salvation. There is nothing surer than a covenant; nothing firmer than a covenant between the Father and the Son.
Covenant and Kingdom
The terms and ideas used to describe salvation are many and varied. Thus we think of Christ as prophet, priest and king; as master, shepherd and friend; as Messiah, Suffering Servant and Son of Man and much more.
In the beginning of the Old Testament, the main idea used to describe God's dealings with people was the covenant. Thus the arrangement of matters after the Flood is laid down in a covenant that God makes with all flesh (Genesis 9:9-10). The special relationship he entered into with Abraham is similarly described as the making of a covenant (Genesis 17:2). This was a dominant concept throughout the Old Testament, the word covenant occurring over 250 times.
But there were other ways of describing God's dealings with his people. These were different but not contradictory, providing complementary ways of looking at things. And an important idea which developed especially in the latter part of the Old Testament was that of a kingdom. The key passage is what God says to David when David proposes to build him a temple: "your house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever" (2 Samuel 7:16). Many of the prophecies about the future were then moulded by this kingdom concept.
In the New Testament it is this kingdom model that is given greater place than the covenant model. The word covenant only occurs about 33 times; the word kingdom 188 times. This favouring of the kingdom concept is greater in the gospels than in the epistles.
This being so, Luke 22:29 is important because it is not only makes use of the covenant idea, but it also weaves these key ideas of covenant and kingdom together. In Luke's thinking they are clearly connected. Already in the midst of the Lord's Supper he has referred to both. At the start of the Passover, his eyes turn to the fruition of the experience they are enjoying and he describes it using the kingdom model: "I will not eat it again until it finds fulfilment in the kingdom of God" (Luke 22:16). But as he passes the cup around he takes up the covenant model: "this cup is the new covenant in my blood" (Luke 22:20). Then in Luke 22:29 he weaves the two coherently together: the kingdom is described in covenant terms.
We should never water down the gospel and wrap it all up in one simple parcel. The Bible doesn't and neither should we. The gospel is so rich that one mode of explaining it is insufficient. We should identify the different models and distinguish each one clearly and unwrap them one by one. But even when we learn to do that, we will still be delighted when we unwrap one parcel and discover that inside it there is another waiting to be unwrapped. That's the experience Luke 22:29 gives us. As we unwrap the covenant parcel, the kingdom parcel is revealed.
There may be ten Biblical words with more theology in them than these. But I doubt if there are ten Biblical words with more varied theology in them. And that's why we could do worse than take Luke 22:29 as a favourite verse to be reflected on whenever time permits.