Missional Mandate – Subduing the Powers

In the beginning of the Theodrama, God created humanity as God’s image to partner with God in the filling, co-creating, and shepherding of the creation.  When God chose Israel as the firstborn among the nations, God invested this same identity and vocation in them as they were tasked with filling the land God had given them, creating a just and compassionate society as a  light to the nations, and caring for the land God had given them. Now, God has renewed Israel through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and called this new Jesus community to fill the earth with the glory of God, create just and compassionate communities as lights among the nations, and care for the earth. 

The first vocation is to fill the earth, and disciples of Jesus fill the earth by making disciples.

The second vocation is, according to Genesis 1:28, to subdue the earth. But how do disciples of Jesus subdue the earth? In Genesis this means to subdue the remaining chaos within the creation and to co-create with God in a way that brings order to the chaos that remains. We told that story earlier in this series. Here is one example. Software developers bring order to chaotic data so that human beings have a greater opportunity to fully flourish as images of God. My Turbo-Tax software program certainly helps me flourish during tax season as it removes anxiety, orders my financial chaos, and decreases my time investment.

But how does this vocation, to subdue the earth, show up within the kingdom of Jesus? How do disciples of Jesus “subdue the earth?” Just as the kingdom vocation of filling the earth was more than populating it but rather forming disciples in the image of Jesus, so here subduing the earth is more than creating order out of chaos in terms of the natural world but confronting, subverting, and redeeming the chaotic disorder that presently rules the world. 

Jesus called Satan the “prince” of this world, a ruler who wields the principalities and powers that oppose the kingdom of our Lord Jesus. These principalities and powers come in many forms, including empires who oppress others, indwelling sin that enslaves us like an overwhelming addiction, and spiritual forces that array themselves against the Lord Jesus. The church, just as Jesus did in his ministry, confronts these powers, speaks truth to these powers, and subverts the powers by its obedience to the kingdom of God.

The book of Acts records this vocation. When Peter and John were brought before the ruling Jewish council, they spoke truth to that power and declared they would obey God rather than any human authority. When Paul encountered evil spirits in Ephesus, he released the demon oppressed from their bondage, and the disciples confessed, disclosed their practices, and burned their books of sorcery. When Paul was brought before Felix, the Roman governor, he talked about “righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come” (Acts 24:25).

Subduing the earth is the vocation with which God has tasked humanity—to bring order out of chaos, and this vocation is part of the reign of Jesus. Disciples of Jesus not only make disciples, they also confront and subvert the principalities and powers by their witness to the kingdom of God and by their obedience to King Jesus. Disciples of Jesus subvert and subdue the powers when they become like Jesus their King.

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