Don’t Waste Your Life (Part 2): Cultural Mandate
In an effort to set the context of our purpose and function as God’s people on earth, I believe it will be helpful to explore further and drill deeper into what Scripture reveals about what God had in mind when He placed Adam and Eve on the newly created earth. Genesis 1:26-28 gives us insight into this where we read:
26Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every living thing that creeps on the earth.” 27So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
These verses contain such a wealth of information and instruction about such topics as the significance of “Us” and of “in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them”, that it is tempting to elaborate further on these verses. However, the focus for this paper is on what God reveals to us here about man being created in God’s image and the task or the “cultural mandate” God then proceeded to give to Adam and Eve and thus to all mankind. Perhaps it is still fitting to add that God reflected on His whole creation and commented that “it was very good.”
Turning to our Heidelberg Catechism Q. and A. 6, we confess there this explanation of the meaning of being created in God’s image:
Q. Did God then create man so wicked and perverse?
A. No, on the contrary,
God created man good and in His image,
that is, in true righteousness and holiness,
so that he might rightly know God his Creator,
heartily love Him,
and live with Him in eternal blessedness
to praise and glorify Him.
To tease this out just a bit further, we now turn to Prof. J. van Bruggen’s “Annotations to the Heidelberg Catechism” (Inheritance Publications, 1991, p. 33) where we read:
That man was God’s image (not image bearer) means that he resembled God. Similarly, children sometimes resemble their father and it is then sometimes said: those children are the image of their father. When God looked down on Adam, He saw him exercising righteous dominion over all creatures (Gen. 1:28; Ps. 8). Therein God saw His own image, just as a king sees his image reflected in a faithful viceroy who administers the king’s laws. Thus, man showed himself to be God’s image in all his conduct by faithfully fulfilling his office (i.e., duty) to which he was called as prophet, priest and king.
God had created man to this end in (i.e., endowed with) “true righteousness and holiness.” Man, therefore, stood in a true relationship to God, His law and His service (righteousness); and he dedicated himself fully to the LORD in complete purity. Man did not have any wrong impulse; he desired solely to devote himself to God (holiness).
…For the catechism says that God gave him His gifts, “so that he might rightly know God his Creator (i.e., he had to use the gift of knowledge properly as prophet), heartily love Him (i.e., he had to preserve his holiness as priest), and live with Him in eternal blessedness (i.e., he had to exercise his righteousness as king).” Adam, therefore, fulfilled the three-fold office.
Whilst the fall in sin made it humanly impossible for man to fulfil this office any longer, this did not negate the mandate God gave to Adam. It did mean that we all stood condemned to death before God as cursed rebels. Thanks be to God alone that He did not leave us in this depraved state but sought Adam and Eve (us) out in the Garden of Eden and gave us the promise of a Redeemer. It is significant that in Genesis 9:1 God repeated this mandate to Noah. And in Christ, that three-fold office has been restored again; we are called Christians because “I am a member of Christ by faith and thus share in His anointing” (HC Q. and A. 32). And so that beautiful and rich mandate He gave to us in paradise continues: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And in all this we are to reflect the “image” of God and fulfil this mandate as co-workers of God!
And so we come to the context of the covenant relationship that God has established with us and in which we may live our everyday life — 24/7/52. And in case you have not yet caught on what I mean with 24/7/52, it simply means: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 52 weeks a year. Why add the 52 you may ask? In one of my later articles I DV intend to explore further that there are no holidays from the service of God; no 2 or 4 weeks break every year or longer during which we can just do our own thing and relax from the need to place Him first and foremost in our lives and live solely and completely to His honour and glory! But I digress.
The word covenant first appears in the Bible in Genesis 9:8 where God spoke to Noah and his sons: “And as for Me, behold, I will establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you…” However, I believe we can readily conclude that the covenant was well and truly established as a relationship “contract” by God with man when He spoke those words introducing mankind’s mandate. Inherent within that mandate was a covenant outlining mankind’s purpose and task, as co-workers of God, to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue or develop it to His honour and glory.
In the introduction to his book, “The Covenant of Love: Exploring our Relationship with God” (Premier Publishing, 2003, p. 7), Rev. K. Stam writes:
One cannot capture the riches of the Bible in a single word. But if there is one word that merits consideration as a key concept in the Holy Scriptures, it is the word covenant. With this term I refer to the whole revelation of the covenant which God in His love establishes and maintains with His children. Throughout Scripture the theme of God’s covenant faithfulness keeps recurring as a dominant theme. Where would we be today if God in His grace had not made a covenant with us, one that is now through Christ called the new covenant in His blood?
God reveals Himself from beginning to end in the Bible as the God of the covenant. It is by way of a covenant that he comes to us and enters into a relationship with us. It is within the framework of this covenant that he deals with us. The material and spiritual blessings that come our way are received by virtue of the covenant. This is true in both the Old and the New Testament.
Unfortunately, there are many today who do not know of the centrality of the covenant. And some, who do know, have come to question or reject its relevance.
In the foregoing we’ve explored several aspects of the purpose and focus of our lives on earth as children of God, aspects such as our creation mandate, being created in the image of God and living within a covenant relationship with God. Hopefully I have demonstrated the interconnectedness of these three. Allow me however, to explore the creation or cultural mandate just a bit further before looking at some relevant examples of daily living to challenge us whether we are indeed striving to live as God intends us to live to His honour and glory, or whether we are wasting our time and possibly our lives with trivial diversions, living for comfort and pleasure.
The word “culture” comes from a Latin word that means: build, tend, and care for God gave us the mandate to populate the earth and to fill it and develop it — implying to build, to tend and to care for and develop the resources within His creation. That implies that God’s plan for this earth was not yet completed. God wished to bring it to completion together with mankind — with man as His co-worker! He gave man many talents to fulfil this task that would reflect God’s image as he set about on his three-fold office on earth; talents that would enable the earth to be developed through man’s exertions in agriculture, production and mineralogy, building and construction, scientific discoveries, medicine, design and technology, art and music and so much more! God has put us to work using our God-given talents in discovering and developing these riches that He has placed in this earth to His glory. That is our cultural mandate! That must determine the context of our studying and working, but also of our leisure time and our retirement. Thus to not develop and use our talents and our time to the best of our ability to the honour of God implies, I believe, a serious waste of our lives!