At Work & Theology 101

Our Great Commission as the Bride of Christ

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Is the Cultural Mandate still in place today? Why don’t we read about it in the New Testament? Was the Cultural Mandate negated by the Fall? These are some of the questions I am often asked when discussing the Cultural Mandate, as we have been doing in this series.

To jump to the answer, let me be clear, nowhere does Scripture say that the Cultural Mandate has ever been revoked. After the Fall, when mankind and all of creation was plunged into sin, God restated it to Noah when he emerged after the flood (Genesis 8:15—9:17).

Again, in the letter by the prophet Jeremiah to the Babylonian exiles he is reminding them of the Cultural Mandate and instructing them to take dominion while in Babylon by working for the peace and prosperity of the city:

This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:… Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. (Jeremiah 29:4-7)

In a way, Jesus’ Great Commission, found in Matthew 28:18-20, is a restatement of the Cultural Mandate for His church. Theologians debate how the Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission fit together, but it is clear that both call for a renewal of culture. These two great mandates should both hold sway over a Christian’s life today.

Theologian John Frame believes that having completed his redemptive work, Jesus rose (and we with him, Romans 6) to receive “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Frame suggests that as the Cultural Mandate sent Adam and Eve to take dominion over the whole earth in God’s name, so Christ calls his disciples to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20). Frame says the following in his book, The Doctrine of the Word of God:

 The difference between the Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission is that the former precedes the fall and the work of Christ; the latter follows these. Otherwise they are very much the same. Of course, it is not possible for people to subdue the earth for God until their hearts are changed by the Holy Spirit. So ‘taking dominion,’ following the Resurrection, begins with evangelism and baptism. But baptism is not the end, and evangelism is not simply bringing people to an initial profession of faith. It is making disciples and teaching them to observe comprehensively all that Jesus has commanded, with the assurance of Jesus’ continuing presence. Jesus’ commands deal not only with repentance, faith, and worship. They also concern our treatment of the poor, our sexual ethics, marriage and divorce, anger, love of enemies, fasting, anxiety, hypocrisy, and many other subjects.

When we through faith embrace Christ, we should also be led to embrace the Cultural Mandate. We should all bring our faith and a desire to obey Christ into our daily work.

Paul identified Jesus as the second man and the last Adam, in contrast to the first man and the first Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45-49). The first Adam failed to carry out God’s mandate. Now Jesus, the last Adam, is fulfilling the original mandate which God gave to humanity.

John Fesko in his book Last Things First: Unlocking Genesis with the Christ of Eschatology offers that God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful, to multiply, to fill the earth, and to subdue it for God’s glory. Jesus, the second Adam, has taken up that task. Just as the first Adam had a bride to serve as his helper (Genesis 2:18-25), so the second Adam has chosen a bride to serve as His helper. Jesus’ bride is the church (Ephesians 5:29-32). Together with His bride, Jesus is fulfilling the original mandate by filling the earth with regenerated images of God, who in turn submit to God’s rule and subdue the earth for His glory.

To state it a little differently, the Cultural Mandate, which God gave to the first Adam and his bride, has now become the Great Commission, which God has given to Christ (Isaiah 42:1-12; 49:1-26) and through Christ to the church (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:45-49; Acts 1:8; 13:47; Romans 15:18).

Not only is the Cultural Mandate relevant to us as Christians in the 21st century, it gives us great insight into what we were created to do and how we are supposed to do it.

Question: How can 21st century Christians work towards the Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission Monday through Saturday? How can we bring it into our everyday lives and actions? Leave a comment here.

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