Basileuo: Who Reigns?


Word of the Week

June 8, 2024

Basileuō: Who Reigns?


. . . Much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:17 NASB

“Would YOU like to be Queen for a day?”  That was the opening line of 1950s game show where the woman who received the highest response on the applause meter would be draped in a sable-trimmed red velvet robe, crowned with a glittering diadem, and handed a dozen long-stemmed roses, along with an impressive array of prizes.

The 1950s also marked the coronation of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, who reigned over her country for 70 years.

Obviously, there is more than one kind of royal reign.

That observation holds true in the Bible as well.  Its pages are filled with references to kings and kingdoms.  In fact, there are even a few passages promising that God’s people will reign in some sense.

What does that mean?  We can learn more by examining the Greek word for “reign.”

“To reign” in Greek is basileuō (bah-sil-YOO-oh).  Its meaning would be clear to first century people who lived under the control of emperors or kings.  The monarch was the person in charge, the one who had the authority to call the shots, to administer the affairs for a country and its people.

We think of kings as the supreme authority in their countries, but this was not always the case in the first century.  When Herod the great died, his son Archelaus did not automatically take over as ruler of Judea.  He had to be appointed as king by the Roman emperor.  Only then could he reign (Matthew 2:22; see also Christ’s parable in Luke 19:14, 27).

According to the New Testament, God Himself is the supreme ruler who reigns over all.  Paul calls Him “the blessed and only sovereign, the Kings of kings [literally, those who reign] and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15).  As Handel’s Messiah proclaims, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns” (Revelation 19:6).

Jesus Christ shares the heavenly throne.  The angel Gabriel announced to Mary that her son would “reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end” (Luke 1:33). In fact, “He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25).

The literal reign of human rulers and the ultimate rule of God provide a basis for understanding a fascinating passage in Romans that uses basileuō in a figurative sense.  Here Paul lays out a contrast between Adam and Jesus Christ.

Adam was just one person, but his action had an effect on the whole human race: sin and death reigned over all.

  • Death reigned from Adam until Moses (Romans 5:14).
  • By the offense of the one [Adam}, death reigned through the one (Romans 5:17).
  • Sin reigned in death (Romans 5:21).

Like a tyrant, sin and death controlled the fate of all humanity.  All were sinners, separated from God.  And all were doomed to die.  A hopeless picture of gloom.

However, Jesus Christ was the one person who would reverse the situation.  Through His obedience, His death and resurrection, He overturned death’s rule and replaced it with grace.

  • As sin reigned in death, so also grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:21). Death no longer calls the shots; God’s grace is in charge, and the result is eternal life!

Tucked away in the passages on reigning is one more astounding truth:  God allows His people to reign.  That means you!

Note the passages that describe God appointing His people to positions of authority:

  • You purchased people for God with Your blood from every tribe, language, people, and nation. You have made them into a kingdom and priests to our God and they will reign upon the earth (Revelation 5:9-10).
  • Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with Him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:6).
  • [In the New Jerusalem] they will reign forever and ever (Revelation 22:6).

Frankly, I can’t begin to imagine all that is involved in God’s plan for His people in the kingdom or the eternal state.  But it seems clear that He plans to appoint you to some position of authority and responsibility that will enable you to glorify Him.  It will be tailored precisely to the person He has made you to be.

This brings us back to a final passage: Romans 5:17.  In the middle of the contrast between the reign of sin and the reign of grace, Paul inserts a startling statement about us.

  • Much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the Lone, Jesus Christ.

If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ and acknowledged Him as your Lord and Savior, then you fit this description.  You have received an abundant load of His grace and you have received the gift of Christ’s righteousness.  This describes every believer.  It describes you, I hope!

And it says that you will reign in life.  You might say, “That’s future tense.  It means that I’ll be in good shape when I get to heaven.”  In the context, however, let me suggest that God has already changed your status today.  He does not see you as a hopeless loser.  He sees you as a prince or princess and He has designated a domain where you can glorify the Great King.

He calls on us to recognize our position of privilege.  He has made you King or Queen for the days that you are here.  Believe what He has said and act like it.

One practical implication:  Don’t allow sin to reign in your mortal body (Romans 6:12).  Instead, ignore its edicts and obey your true Sovereign.


Coming Up

Did you know that there’s more than one word for word in the Word?  Next week we’ll take a look at one of the lesser-known Greek words for ”word.”  It’s a crucial concept in the Christian’s walk of faith.

©Ezra Project 2024

2 Responses

  1. Knowing the fact that God sees me as a king is a humbling experience. I’m special in His eyes. Knowing this along with His other promises, I desire to not allow sin to reign over me anymore.

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