Theology 101

What Is the Connection Between Genesis & the Gospels?

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Editor’s note: Hugh Whelchel was recently featured in an interview with Praxis Circle. Below are a few highlights of that conversation, which you can watch in full here.

What is the connection between Genesis & the Gospels?

I would argue that the Gospel is a call to a lost and forfeit calling, to fill the earth with images and subdue the earth, as we read in Genesis 1:28. It says, “God blessed them and said to do these two things.” He came down and said, “Look, let me tell you what your job description is. I want you to do two things. The first thing I want you to do is I want you to fill the earth with my images. The second thing I want you to do is subdue the earth.”

Now, we have to change the first one a little bit today because of the fall. So the first one today we have to say our job is to fill the earth with redeemed images. Now that’s salvation, that’s church planting, that’s all of what we typically do in the church. 

But we completely leave out the second half, to subdue the earth. The word “subdue” there is the Hebrew word kibosh, and it literally means in that type of context to make the earth an incredible place for human beings to flourish. 

So see, the Gospel is not about just saving people to get them to go to heaven. The Gospel is about saving people, having them redeemed, filled with the Holy Spirit, so they can actually do what they were originally intended to do on the face of the earth between now and when they go to heaven. 

So this idea that the Gospel is all about us, and we get our bus ticket to heaven and we’re just sitting around waiting for the bus to come so it doesn’t really matter what we do here—none of that is true! Yet that’s the message that you hear in most churches today. 

What we have to do is begin to understand this broader understanding of what we were originally intended to do, and how it’s the Gospel that brings us back to that place. It’s through the redemption given to us by the Son, the power of being inspired by the Holy Spirit, to go do what we were originally created to do. 

(Watch this part of the interview here.)

What does it mean to work and subdue the earth?

It gets back to this idea in the next chapter of Genesis. God says he put Adam in the garden to work it and to take care of it. There’s a balance there, there’s a balance with the way we deal with creation. So when we subdue the earth, we’re to bring out the good parts. We’re to make the earth an incredible place for human beings to flourish. 

But by reaching that balance, by understanding that we have to use the earth—I mean, Adam was a gardener so he had to cut down some trees! He wasn’t a forest ranger who had to keep it the way it was. It’s okay to change things. In fact, I would argue that one of the best definitions of work I’ve ever heard is the idea that work is the rearranging of the physical resources that we’ve been given by God in order to bring about flourishing for God’s creation, particularly the part of creation that you’ve been called to serve. That’s what work is about.

So we’re to be out rearranging these things, using our creativity by using all the gifts that God’s given us, to bring about more flourishing. See, it’s all about more flourishing, and that’s an important concept that has really been lost by the church today.  

(Watch this part of the interview here.)

The Great Commission & Shalom

One of the things I think where we get mixed up is that we think the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20) is different from the Cultural Mandate (Gen. 1:28). God comes and blesses them and says, “Fill the earth with images and subdue the earth.” 

One of my professors at seminary, a guy named John Frame, said that there is no difference between the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate. All you have is Jesus restating the Cultural Mandate in light of his life, death, and resurrection. And the fact that he’d been given as the second Adam, he’d been given authority to do these things. 

Now here’s the fascinating thing. The first Adam failed his responsibility of subduing the earth and filling it with images. The first Adam was given a helper to help him fulfill that, and he still failed. Who was that helper? It was Eve, his wife. The second Adam, Jesus Christ, has succeeded in filling the earth with images and subduing the earth, and he’s been given a helper as well. Who is that helper? It’s the Church, it’s you and I. 

That’s why we’ve stepped in now as his bride, to help bring about these two things: to help fill the earth with images—redeemed images—and to help subdue the earth, to help bring flourishing to people in such a way that they see it and it gives them an example of the way things could be. 

In fact, it’s this whole idea of shalom. I’m going to argue that the purpose of our work summed up is to bring shalom to God’s creation, and really to bring it to the communities that he has called us to work with. So if I look at someone and say, “God has called you to do this work in this place at this time,” that work is all about bringing shalom to that community because that’s your calling. Our calling is to go make shalom.

Here’s the fascinating thing: Adam’s in the garden, the perfect shalom. What does God tell him to do? Go make more shalom. That’s just really amazing, right? Because the more shalom is made, the more God is glorified. And that’s what we’re here to do, that’s the purpose of our existence: to glorify God and serve him. And we do that by creating more shalom.  

(Watch this part of the interview here.)

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