Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule…God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule…” (Genesis 1:26, 28)
The pervasive “abridged gospel” starts in Genesis 3 and ends at Easter. But as theologian Dr. Sandra Richter explains, “I am unable to share the gospel without speaking of Eden. Because when we ask the salvation question, what we are really asking is, what did [Adam] lose? And…what did [Jesus] buy back?”
That's why, we’re spending the next 5 weeks unpacking The Unabridged Gospel from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 and what it means for our work.
Our journey begins in Act 1 of Creation where God spent six days working with his words (see Genesis 1) and his hands (see Genesis 2:7–21). Then, God created his children to share in his love, creation, and vocation! Genesis 1 and 2 make clear that God never intended creation to be a product we passively consume, but rather a project we actively participate in.
We see this explicitly in God’s first words to humankind in today’s passage! If you want to see how your work matters beyond the important and instrumental end of carrying out the Great Commission, Genesis 1:26–28 is where you must start. Because this is God’s original intent for humankind—the First Commission he gave you and me.
Let me quickly break down its four components of this commission.
First, we’re called to “be fruitful and increase in number.” This one is pretty straightforward. God wants us to have lots of babies. Enough said.
Second, God tells us to “fill the earth.” Scholars agree that this is not a call to procreate, but to create culture—to take the largely blank canvas God handed us on the sixth day and fill it with art and architecture, schools and services, tree forts and telescopes.
Third, we’re told to “subdue” the earth which, according to the editor of the ESV Bible, means “to make the earth useful for human beings’ benefit and enjoyment.” Sounds a lot like the work you do every day as an engineer, musician, or city planner, doesn’t it?
Finally, God invites us to “rule.” As one Hebrew scholar explains, this is an invitation “to actively partner with God in taking the world somewhere.” Where exactly? Put simply, to take the garden and turn it into “a garden city”—the eternal kingdom of God (aka the kingdom of heaven). Right here in Act 1 of the biblical drama, we see the genesis of our purpose: to participate in the ultimate cosmic drama of working with God to cultivate heaven on earth.
But that was Genesis 1, Jordan. What does this mean for my work today? It means that the work you’re doing today is the very thing God created you to do in the beginning. As Dr. James Davison Hunter put it, “The task of world-making has a validity of its own because it is work that God ordained to humankind at creation.”
With that in mind, go and lean into the First Commission for the glory of God and the good of others today!
P.S. Today’s devotional barely scratches the surface of Act 1 of The Unabridged Gospel. I go much deeper in my new book, The Sacredness of Secular Work, where you’ll learn: