God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:1)
As we transition in the biblical narrative from Act 1 of Creation to Act 2 of the Fall, we move from glorious light to tragic darkness.
In Genesis 3, the serpent snuck in through the garden gate, Adam and Eve committed the first sin, and the shalom of Genesis 1 and 2 was shattered. Because now the entire world was rightly under God’s curse (see Genesis 3:1-19).
But Scripture makes clear that the curse broke much more than just our relationship with God. It broke everything God deemed “good” in Act 1—human beings, the nonhuman world, and the world of work.
As we saw last week, the First Commission to “fill the earth,” ‘subdue,” and “rule” it —to “make the earth useful for human beings’ benefit and enjoyment”—was God’s first gift to humankind (see Genesis 1:26-28). But in a post-Genesis 3 world, that work is now difficult and arduous.
But even though work is now under the curse, God never once retracted the First Commission after the Fall. In fact, he reiterated it, most notably to Noah and family after the flood (see today’s passage).
Scripture mentions work more than 800 times—most of those mentions, of course, appearing after the Fall. As my friend Hugh Whelchel points out, “That’s more than every mention of worship, music, praise, and singing combined.” Clearly the First Commission still matters greatly to God!
But many Christian leaders don’t act like that’s true. In our near exclusive focus on the Great Commission (again, a brand new development in Church history), many pastors have sent an implicit (and often explicit) message that the Great Commission has somehow replaced the First Commission.
But that message inadvertently accuses God of needing a Plan B. It says, sure, Plan A was the First Commission, but now that sin has entered the world, God has been forced to scrap Plan A and replace it with Plan B. Work doesn’t matter—not intrinsically. All that matters is saving as many souls as possible and getting us all the heck out of this God-forsaken world.
But that logic finds zero support in Scripture. The sovereign God of the universe doesn’t need nor desire a Plan B. He still takes delight in watching his children lean into Plan A—the First Commission to model his creative character by filling the earth and making it more beautiful and useful.
With that in mind, lean into the First and Great Commissions knowing that God still smiles upon your work today!
P.S. I go much deeper on Act 2 of The Unabridged Gospel and what it means for your work in my new book, The Sacredness of Secular Work. You’ll learn:
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