In Genesis 1, man was commanded to fill the whole earth and to be the caretaker of the world, subduing the earth for God’s glory & humanity’s good. This concept is what has been called the Dominion Mandate.
But, as the story goes, man choose to disobey God; and rather than subduing the whole earth for the glory of God, man has populated the earth spreading his disease of sinful self-worship (Gen. 6:5) and all the consequences of the curse found in Genesis 3.
Sin perverted everything. Humanities fall infected not only ravaged the human soul, but since man was the steward and caretaker of God’s creation, the curse also affected all of creation! But even in the God’s pronouncement of the curse to Satan and Adam & Eve, we see God’s grace. We get wind of a promised one; one who would come & change things, one who would make things right (Gen. 3:15).
God’s purpose in sending his Son into the world (i.e. the life, death, & resurrection of Christ) was to reverse the curse. If sin distorted & perverted this world & all of humanity, Christ came in order to renew things and make things right.
The full Scriptures are full of references to this curse-reversal. In Romans chapter 8, speaking about Christ’s finished work on the cross and all the glorious consequences from his Cross-work, the Apostle Paul writes – 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
In Revelation 21-22, the Apostle John’s speaks about the renewed or reconstructed earth (the New Heavens & the New Earth)…Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” …27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
And in verse 3 of chapter 22 John flat out writes, no longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.
This is the hope we have, this is the message of restoration & curse reversal through Christ. All that is wrong & twisted in the world (and in our own lives) can be made right through faith in Christ.
In the Great Commission, God’s people are called to once again to fill the earth! Our calling is now to go out into all the world, not in the subduing way that humanity was originally asked to do in pre-fallen world; but now, being that we live in post-fallen world, we are called tell the story of redemption, restoration, & curse reversal, i.e. the Gospel of Jesus of Christ.
Most of us are familiar with the words of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) – 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
And this is the commission…to go into the world with the life-changing, curse reversing Gospel! God had originally intended for his people to go into all the world, and now, through the Gospel, this original calling is being revised & restored in the Great Commission!
Paul referred to the going out into all the world sharing the curse-reversing Gospel as the ministry of reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5…17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
We, God’s blood-bought people, are to go into all the world with this message of reconciliation & hope. We are called to be in the world and in the world with a purpose – to be a witness for curse-reversing Gospel of Christ!
So, the Great Commission is not just for full-time missionaries or ministry workers. This was and is for all Christians! And for you & I this mission begins in our families, our neighborhood, at our schools, & in our workplace! Our friends, our co-workers, our classmates, our neighbors are in our mission field.
If a missionary was sent to our culture, what would he look like, how would she act, how would he try to connect with us? Well, know this…you are that missionary; for God has saved you & commissioned you to His cause (i.e. the sharing of the curse-reversing Gospel).
Christ wants us in the world just not of the world. That is to say, he does not want us acting like them and being influenced by them, but in the world affecting and influencing them with the Gospel! What...he wants us in the world? Yes, in the world! Yes, amongst the non-Christians…working with them, rubbing shoulders with them, building relationships with them, etc…
No where is this better expressed than in Christ’s prayer for the church in John 17… 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
So, we are called to live and be amongst the people of the world (people from every tribe, tongue, & race – Rev. 5) as witnesses for Christ & his curse-reversing Gospel. In this way, we are called to be worldly Christians! And this call, to be in the world but not of the world for the purpose of the Gospel, is the foundation to properly to understanding and carrying out the Great Commission.
But this is where we need to be challenged most isn’t it? Most of us don’t evangelize because we really never interact (relationally) with non-Christians. And if we do interact with them, we do it in a very nominal and/or consumeristic way.
You see, many of us are separate from the world in the wrong way and where we ought to be more separate & distinct we’re not! What do I mean by this? Many Christians wrongfully separate themselves from the world by not building strong, genuine relationships with non-Christians and by not engaging the very culture God has put us in to engage for Gospel purposes. And where we ought to be separate from the world (and the worldly way of doing things) - like in our marriages, our work ethic, our relationships, our humanitarian/social reform efforts, our understanding of and adherence to the Gospel, etc... – we’re not separate!
Why do we do this? Why are we prone to be separate from the world in all the wrong ways? Why are our relationships so nominal and/or non-existent with non-Christians – the very people we are called to be ministering to?
Well, for the most part I think we’re scared. Perhaps we're scared to be persecuted or made fun of or thought poorly of. Perhaps, we are scared to build too many relationships with non-Christians because we don’t want to be influenced by them. (FYI - Both of these reasons are unbiblical cop-outs to being missional and faithfully living out the Gospel.)
But, by & large, I think the reason is quite simple…non-Christians are different than us! We don’t like the same things, or talk the same way, or think the same way. So, relationships with non-Christians aren’t easy, they require work and consideration.
So maybe it’s mainly our sinful laziness that prevents us from getting to know and then ministering the non-Christians around us. Or, worse yet, perhaps we don’t minister to the non-Christians around us because we think we are better than them. Or, worse of all, perhaps we don’t have any evangelistic relationships because we just don’t care. (Yikes!) Or…maybe it’s because we don’t really believe or understand the Gospel ourselves? (Double yikes!!!)
Think & pray about what’s keeping you from going out into your world as witness for Christ. What’s keeping you from building these relationships with the non-Christians God has put in your pathway of life?
We are called to be in the world, just not of it! If we don’t get this and understand this, we will never truly understand evangelism and we will never truly understand our mission and purpose in the "Genesis 3 world" we live in!