Genesis 1:26-30 “Let Them Have Dominion”

Posted on April 20, 2008. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Genesis: Finding Answers to Life’s Crucial Questions

Semester One: Genesis 1-5 “Beginnings”

April 20, 2008

Genesis 1:26-30 “Let Them Have Dominion”


Read Matt.25:14-30




Introduction: Have you ever wondered why communist governments are not only atheistic, but also violently intolerant of Christianity? Why is that? The communists not only desire everyone to recognize the State as being supreme, much as the ancient Romans persecuted the Christians for not sacrificing to Caesar, but communists also recognize that in Christianity in particular there is a theme of individual freedom and liberty that is a part of the message of the Gospel. We find a hint of that theme of freedom in this morning’s text.


Today we are going to look at what it means to have dominion over nature. God granted man dominion and then blessed man, giving man permission to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. What does this verse mean in an age that is seeing some horrible overpopulation in some areas of the world and the price of rice in China is now a news item as grain prices around the entire world are soaring and famine looms in the near future for many?


I. Crucial Question: What Is Man’s Relationship To The World?

v.26 “Let them have dominion…” We discussed this phrase just briefly a couple of weeks ago and saw that this was part of what it means to be made in God’s image. But this warrants a deeper investigation. We will see that this verse touches almost all of life and speaks to many controversial political issues in our time. This speaks to not only who we are as humans created in God’s image, but also what we are supposed to be doing as well as how we are to do it. This verse answers the crucial question: What is Man’s relationship to the rest of Creation? This verse will speak to questions about the environment, how we treat animals, farming, science, overpopulation, and what you do in the workplace and at home.


Mathews writes (NAC p.168-169), “Genesis, however, says nothing about the image of God as to its ontological content, and therefore to develop an anthropology rooted in this phrase is speculative. Genesis 1:26-28 concerns itself primarily with the consequences of this special creation, the rule of human life over the terrestrial order, rather than defining the identity of the image.” In other words, Mathews says this text is not about being, not about who we are, so much as it is about what we are to be doing as a result of whose we are.


In the world of Moses and prior to that, in the world of Abraham, the kings of Sumer, Egypt, and in Canaan were considered to be sons of the gods, they were at times deified, or at least adopted by the gods. The king therefore, ruled as the gods’ vice regents, ruled on behalf of the gods and at their pleasure and for their benefit. The Egyptian pharaohs were the embodiment of Horus in life and in death they were like Osiris. Kings were frequently described as being in the “image” of the god. The single biggest responsibility of the Pharaoh was to make sure the Nile flooded at the right time and wasn’t too big nor too small.


Look at 2Sam.7:13-16. This prophecy about David shows the king as the son of God. Of course we also realize that this serves as a type in Scripture that points to Jesus as the Unique Son of God who is the King of kings.


The language of 1:26 then, seems to indicate that man, and in fact all men and women, are God’s son’s and daughters and are to represent God as his appointed rulers here on earth. The word for dominion or rule is rada and is commonly used for royal rulers. In other words, to be human means that we are children of God and are appointed to rule in his stead in the midst of creation. This is to apply to every person in the world. (Now before any of you theologues jump to the wrong conclusion, I absolutely know that a person who is born again is a fundamentally different kind of child of God than a person who is lost in sin and has not yet been born again.) This idea of sonship is also seen in the genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3 where it says, “Adam, the son of God.” And in Gen.5:3 “Adam…fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.”


Mathews again writes, (p.169), “Our passage declares that all people, not just kings, have the special status of royalty in the eyes of God.” Here again we see the striking difference between the Word of God as proclaimed by Moses, and the worldview of those surrounding Israel. People were slaves or nearly slaves in their relationships with their kings and pharaohs. In ancient Sumer people were created to feed and serve the gods, in Genesis we see God creating people to reign on his behalf over this wonderful, beautiful creation.


Do you see how radical this is? How liberating it is? Each one of us is created in God’s image and is designed for dominion, for ruling over Creation. Now of course, after Adam and Eve sinned, this would mean a radical individualism that is rooted in selfishness and pride that plagues us still. Men compete with each other, war against each other, and constantly look out for #1. But prior to sin, and even now though we are all sinners, God has a plan for each one of us as being created in his image and we are to reign in his stead.


Do not take this to mean that we are each a little king that is absolutely sovereign. Only our Sovereign God is absolutely sovereign. We are more like stewards; we have great authority, we are in a privileged position, we have a relationship with the King of kings, but we are held accountable. We have responsibilities and duties that correspond with the privileges.


Jesus uses some parables that address this in relation to our being a part of the kingdom of God. See Luke 19 for the parable of the minas or the parable of talents in Matt.25. The stewards were responsible for the treasure entrusted to them by their master and they were to manage it for the master. They had great freedom as well as responsibility. They were held accountable.


So too, we shall each be held accountable for how we have handled what the Lord entrusted to us, what he gave us to rule, or to have dominion over. This individual freedom and responsibility is recognized by our founding fathers. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,


Now I do not want to change this Sunday School class into a civics classroom, but we do need to know and understand that because we the Church have not done our job of teaching sound biblical doctrine, and we have not made progress with the Gospel in America for the last 4 generations at least, we have lost our theological roots for our political liberties. Politics and political theory are a product of the theological worldview of a people. And do not think that it is always the majority whose worldview reigns supreme. It is the most vigorous worldview that engages in the battles for the minds and hearts of the people that achieves the greatest change. Because we do not understand who we are as humans, created in the image of God, and that we have a calling to have dominion in this world, we have forfeited the right to rule to those who believe we are but accidents of evolution, descendants of the apes. They are ruling in such a way that is increasingly bringing us into slavery and servitude in their atheistic system.


But now at this point I need to address a question that Ann Marie asked after class last week. You asked something about how much of the OT Law were we to follow today as Christians. Well what does that question have to do with the text? Well there is a theological movement that is quite small, but worth our time to investigate, known as Dominion theology.


Dominionism & Dominion Theology are derived from Genesis 1:26 of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament):

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'” (NIV)

Most Christians interpret this verse as meaning that God gave mankind dominion over the animal kingdom. Dominion theologians believe that that this verse commands Christians to bring all societies, around the world, under the rule of the Word of God.


Theonomy (Greek for “God’s Law”) includes the concept that “God’s revealed standing laws are a reflection of His immutable moral character and, as such, are absolute in the sense of being nonarbitrary, objective, universal, and established in advance of particular circumstances (thus applicable to general types of moral situations).” 6,7 Thus, each of the 613 laws given to Moses and recorded in the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Hebrew Scriptures) are binding on people of all nations, cultures, and religions forever, except for those laws which have been specifically rescinded or modified by further revelation.

Christian Reconstructionism arose out of conservative Presbyterianism in the early 1970’s. Followers believe “that every area dominated by sin must be ‘reconstructed’ in terms of the Bible.” 1

Dominion theology is predicated upon three basic beliefs:

(a) Satan usurped man’s dominion over the earth through the temptation of Adam and Eve;
(b) The Church is God’s instrument to take dominion back from Satan; and
(c) Jesus cannot or will not return until the Church has taken dominion by gaining control of the earth’s governmental and social institutions.

More specifically, what does Dominion Theology (DT) teach? Here are the highlights:

(a) The Old Testament (OT) Law is our rule of life for today. Although DT teaches that keeping of the Law is not a condition for salvation, it is a condition for sanctification. (However, some of the COR’s official statements appear to specifically condition salvation upon OT Law-keeping!);

(b) In addition, the OT Law is to govern over society as well. Since we are called to subdue the earth (Gen. 1:28), DT teaches that God’s Law should rule (or dominate) all aspects of society. This view is known as Theonomy (or God’s law), and is described by Greg Bahnsen as: “The Christian is obligated to keep the whole law of God as a pattern for sanctification and that this law is to be enforced by the civil magistrate” (Theonomy, p. 34). This would mean that Christians would be obligated to keep the whole OT Law except in a case in which the New Testament (NT) explicitly cancels a command, such as the sacrificial system;

(c) A central piece of DT is its belief in covenant theology. As a result, it makes no distinction between the church and Israel (i.e., the church has become “spiritual Israel”). However, DT goes beyond traditional covenant theology and teaches that the church is to be governed by the same laws, is subject to the same curses, and is promised the same blessings as Israel;

(d) DT teaches a high level of social and political activism. If the Kingdom of God is to gradually take dominion over the earth, it only makes sense that Christians should be attempting to change society through the changing of laws and through social action;

(e) Followers of DT, like many charismatics, especially the Latter Rain Movement, look for a great end time revival in which the masses will turn to Christ. As a result, DT does not believe in the rapture of the church. According to DT, the world should be, and is becoming, a better place through the efforts of Christians (cf. 2 Thes. 2:1-12);

(f) As with many others who follow the teachings of George Ladd, DT believes that we are in the Kingdom age, but the Kingdom in another sense is yet to come. We are in the Kingdom, and have Kingdom authority, but on the other hand, we are ushering in the Kingdom through our efforts. “The Kingdom is now, but not yet,” is a popular DT slogan;

(g) DT is postmillennial in its eschatology. It is believed that as a result of the reconstruction of society by Biblical principals, that the final aspect of the Kingdom of God will be established on earth. Christ cannot return until a certain amount of dominion is achieved by the church. It is believed that the curse will slowly be removed as the world is won over. Even disease and death will be all but eliminated before Christ returns to the earth;

(h) DT is preterist in its interpretation of prophecy. This means that they teach that virtually all prophecies which most Christians believe are still future, have in fact been fulfilled already, mainly between the years A.D. 30 and 70. In David Chilton’s book, Days of Vengeance, he says that the book of Revelation, “is not about the Second Coming of Christ. It is about the destruction of Israel and Christ’s victory over His enemies [during the first century]” (p. 43); and

(i) DT uses an allegorical hermeneutic, especially in reference to prophecy. So we find that the Great Tribulation took place at the fall of Israel in A.D. 70; the Antichrist refers to the apostasy of the Church prior to the fall of Jerusalem; the Beast of Revelation was Nero and the Roman Empire, etc.;

–  One of the most important distinctives of DT is its belief in Theonomy. DT teaches that Christians are under the Law as a way of life, and are obligated to ultimately bring the world under that Law. This concept is based on several passages. First, Gen. 1:28 commands Adam to subdue the earth. Adam lost his ability to do so to Satan as a result of sin. The church should now be in the process of reclaiming from the devil what Adam lost. (You will note a hint of the Spiritual Warfare movement here.) Secondly, the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20) commands the followers of Christ to disciple all the nations, which we are told, goes beyond personal salvation and sanctification to the reformation of society;

Matt. 5:17-19 is the passage upon which the system hinges. DT claims that the word “fulfill” actually means “confirm.” Thus, Christ did not in any sense fulfill, or complete, or do away with the Law, rather he confirmed it as our rule of life today. The normal and best translation of plerosai is “fulfill” not “confirm.” Besides this, however, we have the weight of the NT teaching concerning the Law. The epistles clearly teach that believers are no longer under the Law of Moses (Rom. 6:14; 7:6; 8:2-4; Gal. 3:24,25; 5:18), having been set free from that bondage to serve under grace and the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2);

Now my answer to Dominion theology, and I found it very attractive in some ways back in my younger days, is that Christ has fulfilled the law and, like Paul, we are free from the Law. The Law has 3 purposes for today: 1) To point out our sinfulness, our inability to keep the law and therefore our need for a perfect saviour, Christ. 2) The Law can help us in our sanctification. The Ten Commandments are not the ten suggestions and it is forever true that murder, theft, lying, adultery, etc. are sins and displease God. But we do make a distinction with the Law that the OT Jews did not, I believe, in that we see the food laws and clothing laws as being ceremonial. We know that the Lord sent Peter a vision in Acts 10 about eating things that were unclean. So parts of the Law have been set aside now, fulfilled in their purpose by Christ’s death and resurrection. 3) The Law does give good guidance for how society can exist and be governed justly. Here is the dangerous part, because some would want to bring back the law for stoning the homosexuals or adulterers.

Now I need to add that islam has a very similar concept of dominion. Muslims are called by their god to conquer the entire world, thus you have the house of peace (where Islam is practiced and it reigns) and the house of war (where Islam is not honored or practiced). Muslims are to convert, enslave or kill the rest of the world until the entire world is ruled by muslims. This is at the core of muslim theology. Now back to politics…this  is one of the things that bothers me greatly about our politicians, like Jimmy Carter, they do not understand the muslim plan for conquering the world. They will wage jihad until sharia law is practiced all over the world. They are bringing sharia law into every country they settle and they essentially set up a separate legal system within their own communities. They practice their form of dominion theology.

Wow, that was a huge rabbit chase!

Let me tell you what I think we can do with this idea of dominion in Gen.1:26. I would link it to 3 verses in the NT. First of all I would say that 1Cor.10:31 applies “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Folks, when you do the laundry you are exercising dominion. When you mow the lawn you are exercising dominion. When you take into your home a small puppy from the pound or SPCA, you are exercising dominion. When you cook a meal, and you are worshiping the Lord while you do it for his glory, you are exercising dominion. What you do at work, done for the glory of God, is fulfilling Gen. 1:26.

Romans 14:23 “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” When we stop living by faith we start sinning and we stop exercising dominion and try to live for our own glory. That is digging the hole and burying the talent.

Matt.28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Like the muslims, we Christians are out to conquer the world. Unlike the muslims, we believe that instead of God telling us to sacrifice our sons for him, God has sacrificed His Son for us. Our message is not a message of death, slavery, hatred and intolerance. Our message is of hope, grace, love, freedom and the ability to say no but still be respected. We refuse to conquer the world by the sword of man, our strength is in the sword of the Lord, the Word of God, lived out and preached in the power of the Holy Spirit





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