The Two Commissions
The previous chapter examined the Great Commission as we are called to do in Matthew 28:19-20 including a discussion of the meaning of the phrase, "make disciples of all nations" This chapter looks at the second commission that we are given as disciples of Jesus Christ.
What is the Cultural Commission?
There is another commission given by God to His people. Commonly referred to as the Cultural Commission or the Cultural Mandate, it is less clearly stated than is the Great Commission, but is, nevertheless, equally demanded by God. It can be very simply defined as God’s direction to us to bring His order into His creation. The commission was given to Adam and Eve in the pre-Fall Eden and re-emphasized to them by God as He banished them from the Garden. Genesis 1:26-30 establishes that God has given man dominion and responsibility for all aspects of the earthly creation:
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 the earth." And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. Genesis 1:28-30
In Genesis 2:19-20, God teaches man to organize and create order within the creation:
So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field.
Interesting! Man’s first job was as a biologist to order and classify the biosphere. We can see here that God intended man to use his mind; God had created a rational being with the knowledge and skills necessary to establish God’s order within the Creation. The fall did not remove any of the responsibilities that God had placed upon man: it just made it harder to exercise those responsibilities. God is very explicit that He expects man to continue to follow His instructions:
And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
'You shall not eat of it,'
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return." Genesis 3:17-19
As a result of man’s disobedience, food would no longer “fall into his lap,” it would require sweat and thorns and thistles and toil to meet his needs. Notice that God did not say, “You are no longer to be the steward of the land.” He only said that Adam would now find it far more laborious to exercise his stewardship. Frustration became the norm and the sense of meeting God’s expectation became the rarity. The Fall banned Man from walking and talking with God in the cool of the evening, it did not turn him into a parasite in God’s created world; man still was commissioned to be the agent of God in that world.
There is another aspect of the Cultural Commission that is very important to understand. That is that the exercise of that commission establishes the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of the created world. “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col 1:17). Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch theologian and Prime Minister of the Netherlands put it very well when he said, “"There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'"
From the beginning of creation to this very day, Jesus Christ is to the glue that holds all things together. Right now! Not sometime in the future after He comes for His people, but now. The Cross of Christ is effective in bringing order to the world now. For Paul continues to tell us in the 20th verse that “through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” It is through us, working by the authority given us by the Great Commission and by the exercise of the Cultural Commission, that the peace of Christ will become manifest.
That peace will be imperfect until He comes for His people, but that does not excuse us from exercising all the power and gifts that He has given us to restore those portions of Shalom (to be discussed in Chapter 5) as possible and wherever possible.
He is Lord! Not He will be Lord, but He is Lord. We have the authority to demonstrate that for all to see.
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To be continued.