When the average person (or even an average Christian) thinks about the commands of God, he thinks mainly of all God says we can’t do. Our minds first go to the Ten Commandments, where we are instructed in many “no’s.” Do not take God’s name in vain, do not murder, do not steal, etc. Sadly and mistakenly, we often think of Christianity in terms of what is forbidden, rather than the glorious promise of all that is given!
Do you know what is the first command of God directly to humans? It’s certainly not a “don’t do this” instruction. It’s actually a “do everything” kind of command! Check out God’s first mandate in Genesis 1:28 (ESV). Keep in mind that at this point He has just created Adam and Eve and has not yet put the close on the sixth day of creation. No sin has yet entered the picture. The Bible boldly proclaims, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on earth.’”
So there stand the first two human beings, having been blessed by their Creator and commanded to fill up the earth and take charge of it! They are to subdue under their feet all God has given to them. They are to bring glory to their Creator by ruling for Him at His direction while walking in unhindered relationship with Him.
Imagine the scene back then. Adam and Eve are standing on that section of earth in what is now the Middle East. How would they proceed to fill the earth? At the very least, this meant to bear children. But to fill the earth – to get from where they were to all over the earth – they would need transportation. For transportation they would need to observe and study and learn about all the natural resources God had given. They would need to educate the children and families. They would need to build societal structure as the population increased. Housing would be necessary. As society grew, cities would be built. Government would be established. Systems of trade and buying would be developed. Education must continue. Harnessing resources for medicinal purposes would become necessary. People would learn to specialize in their areas of passion and ability.
Fast forward to today. Eventually even the silicon God put in the earth’s crust would be used to build computers. Those computers would access the internet that humans developed. That technology combined with more advanced transportation methods would enable the Gospel to be spread throughout the world in order that Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19 (ESV) might be fulfilled, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, …”
You see, the first command of God is critical and eternal. Knowing that we would fall into sin, God still gave this original mandate to people. We are to be his vice-regents, harnessing the stuff of the world in order to take dominion for God’s purposes. The instruction God gave in Genesis 1:28 is often referred to as the “Cultural Commission” or the “Cultural Mandate.” It is a beautiful gift to each of us. We can get up each morning and take our part in filling and subduing the earth. We can use the passions God has given to us and enjoy being who He made us to be. In order for us to take dominion, some will have to enjoy academics, some car repair, some construction, some teaching, some musical arts, some medicine, some government, some space exploration, some farming, some manufacturing, some engineering, some journalism, some cleaning, some ocean exploration, some nutritional science, some economics, etc. We are commanded by God to enjoy and take pride in our calling, knowing that all work is sacred when done in obedience to Genesis 1:28. The person delivering packages to our doorstep does sacred work just as the Sunday school teacher – if both are responding to the call of God to fill and subdue this creation for His glory.
One of the greatest gifts for which we can be thankful is the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:28. This gift never ends. God is not going to throw away His creation. He will redeem it and remake it. And I will miraculously dwell one day in this New Heavens and New Earth, passionately studying and teaching as I do now, and exploring a universe restored by my Jesus! We will learn, travel, explore, engage, eat, connect, laugh, run, rule, and reign under the King of Kings!
The critical change will be that the curse of sin will have been removed. We will at last be free to pursue God’s will unhindered by the burdens and stresses we now carry. Our sinfulness has caused our work to contain an element of pain and disappointment (Genesis 3:16-19). In the new creation, all that misery will be removed (Revelation 22:3). We will pursue the desires God put in our heart without resistance – the ultimate fulfillment of Psalm 37:4. What a day that will be!
Do you remember hearing that familiar Christmas passage from Isaiah 9:6-7 (ESV)? “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”
That child, Jesus, was born so that the command and promise of Genesis 1:28 could continue in my life. He came to die and pay for the sin that otherwise would damn me and banish me from a relationship with Him now and the New Heavens and New Earth to come. Were it not for the sacrifice of the Son of God, my part in the glorious Kingdom of God would come to nothing. But, because of Jesus, I will be a part of the plan. “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end,” and I will be there … doing what He made me to do …. reigning with Him!
If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him …” 2 Timothy 2:11b-12 (ESV)