Disruption of the Peace (akatastasia: confusion and tumults)
Robert Wurtz II
For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. (1 Corinthians 14:33)
For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults. (2 Corinthians 2:20)
For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. (James 3:16-18)
I wish to revisit this vital topic to give believers a chance to consider their ways and ask themselves if they are promoting rivalry, disturbing the peace, or causing confusion in the church or organization they are a part of. No true believer would willingly and deliberately cause confusion and havoc among the Saints unless they were backslidden. Sadly, sometimes it’s the very people who view themselves as the most spiritual who cause the most trouble. They forget that true spirituality is Christ-like-ness. Christ is no trouble-maker; He is the Prince of Peace. We are called to imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1f).
You will notice in the passages that I have underlined three words. These words are translated from the same Greek word, akatastasia. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT) defines the word as “a disruption of the peace.” This makes sense as we apply that definition to each passage. To the Corinthian church, Paul writes that God does not author “disruptions of the peace,” but He authors peace itself. Peace is harmony and concord. Later, Paul wrote to the Corinthians again, saying that he was in fear that they would be experiencing many bad things when he came to them — not the least of which was akatastasia (confusion/disruptions of their peace). In other words, there would be conflict.
James takes up the same subject in James 3:16. He then adds; where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. Where there is bitter jealousy and a party spirit (rivalry), there is both akatastasia (confusion/disruptions of their peace) and every evil practice. Rivalry and party spirit destroy the cohesiveness of the community of Saints, which is built on unity and love. Once the “glue” is destroyed, all kinds of evil flood into the church. This is why it is essential to zoom out and see who is authoring this kind of trouble.
What Spirit Are We Moving In?
By implication, Paul is clearly pointing to Satan as the author of disruptions of the peace. He is behind the events that bring conflict into the churches. Once strife and confusion begin, a situation develops that allows all kinds of evil to come in. I once heard of a congregation fighting among each other to the point that one of them tore the cross off the wall and threw it out the back door. Imagine that. Now, I’m not superstitious. I know there is no power in a stick of wood made in the form of a cross. However, the conflict had become so sharp that nothing was sacred anymore, and everything was fair game. Once they started attacking one another as the real Church — it was a light thing to harm the church building.
What is really shocking is that the saints were so stirred up that they could not think straight. In times like these, there needs to be a voice of reason (such as Paul was in his letter) to call them back to their senses. His words were like a bucket of cold water to sober their minds. He put the trouble makers on notice and called the congregation back to unity. When the same names kept popping up every time there was trouble; it would seem that the people could have gotten some discernment. Nevertheless, Paul got word from the house of Chloe that quarrels were going on.
James answered the question when he stated, This wisdom does not descend from above but is earthly, sensual, demonic (James 3:15). This is sobering. Imagine a Christian congregation where people are using “demonic wisdom” on one another. They think they are hearing from God or that God is helping them “discern” things, but they are actually moving in the demonic. How can you tell? Because what they are doing is destroying the church, not building it up.
Although the people may invoke God’s name in what they are doing, understand that God didn’t author it. The church at Corinth was dealing with so much madness that it’s hard to imagine Paul referring to them as Saints. They were fornicating in secret and suing one another with the law in public! Paul was embarrassed on God’s behalf. Carnality had so overtaken the people, which not only was one group saying “I am of Christ” — but another was saying Christ was accursed when he/she prophesied. What happened to these people? Why were they behaving this way? Answer: Where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
The Devil’s Normandy Invasion
“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26–27 NKJV).
The word “place” in our passage is from the Greek word topos, which is the root of our word topography. When anger and wrath between Saints go un-dealt with, a feud develops. Out of that feud arises a beachhead (as it were), a landing strip for the Devil to invade the churches. Like a scene from WWII, the enemy forces his way up the beach and into the assembly. He lands his freighters onto the tarmac, and scores of weapons begin pouring out of them. Before we even know what has happened, the enemy has made a mocking-stock of the churches that God intended to be lights and examples in the community.
There was so much compromise at Corinth that there is no doubt the environment was hostile. Everyone was likely suspicious of the next person. Then they resorted to carnal means when dealing with their issues. They were so in the flesh that Paul could hardly get a radar fix on these people. They were looking to mans’ law courts to deal with the churches’ issues. As if the world has any business with God’s people. Paul told them, For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults. Paul told the Corinthians to get their act together and fast. He tells them plainly, “I have told you before, and foretell as if I were present the second time, and now being absent I write to those who have sinned before, and to all the rest, that if I come again I will not spare” (2 Corinthians 13:2).
We don’t know what kind of punishment Paul has in mind. He already wrote to turn one man over to Satan and revealed that others in the church were sick, and some died for not discerning the Lord’s body. Nevertheless, it is clearly a dangerous thing to be a threat or an encumbrance to the churches of God. The people needed to recognize that the Devil was stirring the people to sin and division. He was using people who were “prophetic” to stir the people even more.
Filled with the spirit of Satan
God always calls the churches to love, unity, and holiness. The Devil brings in sin and compromise as surely as he does bitter jealousy and rivalry. It is all carnality and confusion. But it is no excuse to “blame the Devil.” Satan filled Ananias and Sapphira’s hearts to lie to the Holy Spirit, and both of them dropped dead on separate occasions. This is serious business. God is concerned about His churches. He has purchased them with His own blood. We do well to put all of these things away from our midst and be ever vigilant to make sure we guard against them.
We must love one another with a pure heart — fervently. We must put away from our ranks those who insist on “disrupting the peace.” With the love of Christ as our “glue,” the churches can withstand a great many attacks of the enemy. Without it, we will topple down like a building being demolished. It is only a matter of time.