God's continuing work - and ours.
When we look carefully at Genesis 1-2, we see that God’s work in creation is to shape and fill. He takes what begins as chaos and forms it. He takes what is dead and fills it with life. God spent three creation days shaping, and then spent three creation days filling.
God’s work always involves taking something chaotic, then bringing order our of disorder, and then filling it with life and beauty. We see this pattern in the history of Israel. God freed Israel from slavery in Egypt, baptized them through their Israel’s walk through the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10), shaped them into a nation, and filled them with His law. We see this pattern repeating itself in the formation of the Church. We see the Church formed out of the chaos of many tongues as the Holy Spirit fell at Pentecost with one message heard by all, only to have those who were baptized with fire being filled by the teachings of the Apostles. We see this pattern repeated in our own lives as we grow ever closer to Him through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Our receiving Jesus’ work on the cross means that our chaotic life of sin is now in His hands. We were baptized into the death of His Son and risen to new life. He then shapes us and molds us into the image of His Son and fills us with His Holy Spirit.
It is Satan’s desire to undo forming and filling and return creation to chaos. He does this through fragmentation, through instilling anger, and through the sowing ingratitude. He seeks to be worshipped as the god of darkness as opposed to true worship of the God of Light. We see his wiles in the unscrupulous pronouncements of politicians who wish to tear down, but really have no program to build up. We his wiles in the church where we have the heresy of the lordship of the individual rather than the Lordship of Jesus. We see this in wars. We see this in pandemics. We see this in economic collapse.
Satan’s wiles are in direct contradiction to the ultimate goal of the gospel, which is wholeness and health. Because of the Fall, neither of these can be perfectly attained in this life but both are promised to come about at the end of this age. But a certain sense of both can be ours now spiritually, if not physically.
The wise soon learn that even in the chaotic events of our lives, in sickness, in injury, in emotional distress, in overwhelming circumstances, none of these are now in Satan’s hands, but all are now in God’s hands. And all are at work forming us and filling us. God is at work with His ultimate purpose of establishing a kingdom of wholeness, healing, beauty, and grace, which He is doing in our lives as well as in the lives of those who are members of His true church. Creating often involves struggle and pain. But as God said after each day of creation in Genesis 1, “And God saw that it was good.” Satan and his minions want to undo what is good.
The church’s mandate in Matthew 28 is to make disciples. It is to take the gospel and invite those whose lives are chaotic and hopeless and loveless to have lives that make sense and will be filled with hope and love. The church is to make disciples through the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. The church is to shape its congregants into citizens of the Kingdom, a kingdom which is now but which is not yet. It is to help disciples become filled with the fruit of the Spirit. As Galatians 5:22–24 (English Standard Version) teaches us: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” This fruit is singular. It is whole. It is healthy. It is complete and it is good.