Chaos and Conflict
3. Christ in us continues the conflict

Pentecost is a continuation of the divine war against the forces of world disorder. “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1 – 4)

The Spirit is poured out in such a way that he “rests” on each of the apostles. This term echoes that used of his “hovering over the face of the waters” in Genesis 1:2[1]. It means that the praying church at Pentecost was baptised in the glory cloud of God. Filled with the Spirit and glory the church is impelled to speak “the mighty works of God”[2] (2:11) so that the first gospel message results in the conversion of thousands (2:14 – 41).

From Pentecost on the forces of chaos have been put into terminal disarray. The Spirit takes the Word in the glory cloud into the church[3], whose call is to penetrate the wilderness of this present age, to destroy it and bring order and life. This is something natural to every born – again believer.

To be born “not of the flesh” but “of water and the Spirit” (John 1:13; 3:5 – 6) means we are no longer in mortal danger from the beasts of the chaos[4]. Regeneration is a work of re – creation that lifts us above such fallen created powers. To be “born from above” (John 3:3)[5] is to share in the nature of God[6].

The New Testament piles up expressions that assure us that we are essentially beyond the reach of the forces of destruction[7]. In Christ, we are immersed in the new creation (2 Cor5:17). We have “Christ in you (Gentiles), the hope of glory.” (Col1:27), our “life is hid with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). “seated …with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:6), we “have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Heb12:22 – 23).

The glory cloud, the Holy Spirit and the Word of God are the environment, “the spiritual atmosphere”, of the Christian life. Conflict with evil chaos powers is now an essential part of our nature. This is everywhere present in the New Testament[8] but most explicitly on a cosmic scale in the book of Revelation.

The apostolic world view[9] pictures the church assailed by evil powers whose features (the primeval ocean, multiple heads, global influence etc.) reach back to the cosmic monsters of the Old Testament. There is the great red dragon (Satan) “with seven heads and ten horns” who furiously makes war on those “who hold the testimony of Jesus” (Rev 12:3, 17). On a more earthly plane, we have “a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads” and “it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them” (Rev 13:1,7). Similarly, “the great prostitute who is seated on many waters” having “seven heads and ten horns” is “drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus”(Rev 17:1,3,6).

In the midst of this maelstrom of wickedness is the martyr church whose resurrection (as with the entire biblical pattern) emerges in the context of seeming defeat by hateful superior powers[10]. This church, most clearly in Revelation 11, is essentially a witnessing and wonder working community, anointed by the Holy Spirit[11] it goes “up to heaven in a cloud” (v.12). All the usual themes are here; in the midst of evil the Spirit of the glory cloud penetrates chaos with the divine Word so as to conquer it. This is a picture of our true identity. We are warriors of glory in the power of the Spirit – Word. Biblically the picture is overwhelmingly clear. But how is the Western church living, and how is God moving to effect radical change amongst us?

Chaos in the Church Today

It is self evident that whilst the Western church tolerates so much chaos in her midst she possesses little authority to speak to the wider disorder, in this case economic, that is engulfing the planet. According to the principle, “judgement begins at the household of God” (1 Pet 4:17) we must allow the Lord to deal with us first. Sadly, in many situations, we are seeing the reverse. Folks talk to me on a regular basis about situations of conflict and sin, mostly sexual, but also involving money and power, which are “swept under the carpet”. Apparently there is a prevailing fear about openly dealing with evil. There is great confusion about spiritual discipline, so much so that the deception in this area in the church can only be described as Babylonian and Satanic[12].

Many of the Protestant Reformers (especially Calvin) argued that discipline was one of the signs of a true church. They did this, not because they were “hard men”, but because of their view of the gospel. Let me use a local illustration to explain.

The corner deli has a “Wall of Shame” covered with pictures of people caught on camera stealing – presumably the aim is to make them feel so bad they won’t turn up again. This is not what Paul has in mind when he commands the church to deliver sinful Christians over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh (1 Cor 5:5; 1 Tim 1:20). It is entirely compatible with Jesus own words[13]. To cast offenders “in the name of the Lord Jesus and … with the power of our Lord Jesus” (1 Cor 5:4) into the public chaos of shame is merely a prelude to a display of the glory of God’s Spirit and the authority of his Word[14]. The highest display of God’s power and glory in this present evil age (Gal 1:4) is forgiveness. In every situation of chaos this is God’s ultimate purpose.

Instead of grasping that from creation to cross to Second Coming[15] chaos is the prelude to the mighty acts of God, many are afraid to name sin for what it is. Just how many people in the contemporary style churches that tolerate all forms of lust[16] are actually truly regenerate. In our current climate it is hard to tell, but it is getting easier as more extreme teachings/teachers are tolerated and bizarre phenomena elevated[17].

In many ways the contemporary church has become more interested in the absence of evil than the conquest of evil – we are either stuck in a nice, middle class approach to conflict or move into controlling mode so things don’t get out of hand. Sadly, the focus of many congregations and para-church groups, like schools and ministry training colleges, is on nurture to the exclusion of breakthrough. The “settler” mentality marginalises a pioneer commitment to the kingdom of God. Christians in Australia seem to have lost touch with the ground breaking roots of their own so recently established nation. Unless we are grasped by the Spirit – Word’s assault on chaos the Great Commission will never be completed.


Through the current economic chaos the Lord is calling for a total inversion of values. As followers of Jesus we must be devoted to the destruction of the Babylonian system of this world, starting with repentance for greed and covetousness in our own lives.

Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). I sense that the heart of the majority church in the Western world is embodied in the good things money can buy. The real treasure, the place where God’s heart and presence will be found, is in the going forth of the Word of God in the power of the Spirit and the cloud of glory to encompass and penetrate evil wherever it is found in order to destroy it. This is the coming of the kingdom of God with power[18] amongst the poor, weak, marginalized, sick, demonized, abused, depraved and rebellious. These are those to whom our Lord ministered[19].

There is a call going forth at this time, it is clear and compelling, it is a call to participate in God’s own journey from creation to consummation (the Return of the Lord) in the divine drama of salvation history, joining with the Spirit – Word in their ongoing conflict with evil to the point of its extinction. This is the call that moved the prophets, motivated the cross and impels the martyrs to shed their blood in so many places in the world today[20]. Only as we are personally grasped by this vision, “the love of Christ compels me” (2 Cor5:14), will we see the longed for spiritual transformation that we, this city, state, nation and world, so desperately needs.

[1] The words used in the Greek of the Old and New Testament for these passages are epiphero and phero.

[2] Events like creation, the Exodus and conquest of the Promised Land.

[3] Compare, “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” (1 Pet 4:14).

[4] “do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do” (Luke 12:4)

[5] A legitimate translation of the operative Greek word anothen.

[6] “you have become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world” (2 Pet 1:4). This is true only by grace.

[7] In the sense of the assurance of final salvation e.g. “not a hair on your head will perish” (Luke 21:18).

[8] E.g. Acts 13: 4- 12;16:16 -18; 1 Thess 2:18;Eph 6:12ff etc.

[9] Which is normative for every century.

[10]E.g. “For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” (2 Cor 1:8 – 10).

[11] The symbolism of the “two olive trees” in Revelation 11:4 comes from Zechariah 4:1, which is interpreted as “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” (v.6).

[12]Babylon deceives “all nations” (Rev 18:23), Satan is “the deceiver of the whole world” (Rev 12:9 cf. 20:3; 8).

[13] E.g. “I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead.” (Rev 3:22 -23 cf. 2:5,16; 3:3,16 – 19; 1 Cor 11:27 – 32

[14] There are other examples in the life of Paul. The casting of an evil spirit leads to riot, beating and imprisonment, but this is a prelude to a miraculous deliverance in Philippi ( Acts 16:16 – 34).

[15] Apart from the material presented so far, see the sequence in 2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 13 – 20; the manifestation of the antichrist sets the stage for the return of the Word (Jesus) in great glory.

[16] Particularly covetousness, which is idolatry (Eph 5:5;Col 3:5).

[17] My perception is that these tendencies will grow over the next few years impelling the righteous to prayer and repentance on behalf of the wider body of Christ.

[18] “the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power” (1 Cor 4:20)

[19] In the Australian context the very visible chaos in indigenous communities cries our for kingdom action.

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