Steven Daskal & Joe Butta
Christian Messianic Analysis & Apologetics
26 Then 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 creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then 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.”
29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. 30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. 31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. — Genesis 1:26-31 (NKJV)
Christians generally understand that the LORD created Man, male and female, to have a deep, personal, loving relationship with Him and each other. Man was unique in being created in His image, having an eternal soul and an extensive degree of free will. The angels, while awesome eternal creatures with supernatural abilities, do not have the ability to have a personal relationship with God.
What many Christians do not fully grasp is that part of our personal relationship with God is to join Him in His work. While Father, Son, and Spirit created the material universe before Man, God has a continuing responsibility to care for the universe. As an analogy, consider a dad who has built, purchased, or rented a family home. He might seek to engage his young son in helping him maintain it. The jobs might be very small and simple at first [e.g., pulling weeds, watering the grass, or finding anthills], and the little boy may not really accomplish much. But what matters is that father and son are working together and spending time teaching and learning, respectively as they perform the tasks at hand. The labor is often fun for the child, and is more fun for the father because he’s doing it with his son.
Similarly, God created Man to work, thinking and acting like God, tending the world that God made for Man. Man works alongside Him, and in doing so deepens their relationship. This human responsibility to labor alongside his heavenly Father has two elements: dominion or rule, and worshipful intercession.
Man was created to have dominion — to rule — the earth and all that lives upon it for God. Man was also created to represent God on the earth — mankind was created in God’s image, male and female. In relation to the earth, we have the form of God — like Christ, and we have a delegated, God-like function, to rule, subdue, and control the earth on His behalf. Thus, we were created to be like kings, to rule on His behalf, to represent Him. This means that even as God worked to create the earth, mankind was created to work on the earth in God’s Name. God’s efforts are inherent in His rule. God spoke order, beauty, and goodness out of chaos — this is His Work, and by His Word performs the task of sustaining it.
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. —Gen 2:7-9 (NKJV)
Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. —Gen 2:15 (NKJV)
All of God’s people are called to represent God’s love by fulfilling our calling, whether in pastoral ministry, in other direct service in the church, or to our community in commerce, agriculture, industry, arts and sciences, or government. God holds Christians to a higher standard in their labors than that expected of mankind as a whole. God’s love should inform how we work [put forth effort], how we rule His creation in His Name. God inspires Adam’s first breath that enlivens him [Gen 2:7]. We were created to tend and care for God’s creation, even in the Garden of Eden. This was God’s intent BEFORE the Fall, and continues to be His intent AFTER the Fall.
Work wasn’t added after the Fall — what changed was the nature of our labors. What is different? Before the Fall, we were perfectly suited to the work God gave us, and our efforts were always fruitful and satisfying. After the Fall, the earth would resist our work what we did, the plants and animals would be difficult — even dangerous — to work with. We would have to deal with weeds, disease, predators, droughts, floods, etc. that would not have been in Eden.
Thus, our daily work is NOT a punishment, not a curse, for mankind. It is a blessing; it is what we were created for and were perfectly endowed to do as part of God’s perfect sovereign plan. Whether our work is secular or church-centered, it is all equally valued by God, and in all of it, we are to labor as for Christ.
God works with quality, excellence, integrity, and benevolence; thus we are to follow His example, because we are His workers [belong to Him].
Jesus gave us His perfect example of this, and explained it in very clear terms to everyone:
Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” — John 5:17 (NIV84)
“… For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.” — John 5:36 (NIV84)
“Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” — John 14:10 (NIV84)
God expected mankind to continue to serve Him by serving others. By the end of Genesis 4, people are raising livestock, making tents, musical instruments, and all manner of metal tools and implements. While our toil is no longer always smoothly productive and fruitful, it is central to mankind’s purpose.
Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit onto the disciples even as the Father breathed life into Adam. Filled with His Spirit [literally, inspired by Him], we are called to [provide] work[s] in two functions. We’ve discussed working as kings, to exercise dominion in God’s Name over creation, even though we were expelled from Eden and must strive against a world made stubborn and difficult by sin. The other aspect of mankind’s task was to bless the earth on God’s behalf as priests.
And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” —Ex 19:3-6 (NKJV)
Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
— John 20:19-23 (NKJV)
Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. — 1 Pet 2:4-5 (NKJV)
The efforts of God — Father, Son, and Spirit — are described as work in the Scripture; there is thus nothing demeaning, inappropriate, or punitive in people working. The apostle Paul wrote:
But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. — Phil 2:22 (NIV84)
We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. —1 Thess 1:3 (NIV84)
In a similar vein, Apostle Peter wrote of the work of the Holy Spirit and of mankind:
who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood… Grace and peace be yours in abundance. —1 Pet 1:2 (NIV84)
Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. — 1 Pet 1:17 (NIV84)
God called out people, from Abram on down through the ages, to be priestly intercessors for mankind and the earth, blessing them, teaching them, chastising them, urging them to turn in repentance and acknowledge their Maker. This is the other aspect through which God created man to work [find His purpose on] the earth — to call down His blessings upon it, to communicate His successive revelation to the rest of mankind. All those who have put their faith in God, whether in the old dispensation to the children of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob or in the new to all, Jew and Gentile alike who confess, repent, and acknowledge Yeshua/Jesus as Messiah/Christ, Savior, and Lord, fulfill this second God-given role in the earth.
Thus, we are to rule the earth and bless the earth, interceding for the earth and everything in it, sharing the love of God and the hope of the Gospel for reconciliation between men and God and the further hope of a glorified resurrection into a purified world ruled by the Lord Jesus.