Does the Great Commission of Mt 28:18-20 supersede the cultural mandate of Gen 1:26-28? Does the command to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ replace the requirement to fill and subdue the earth and to rule over all living things?
At first sight, it might seem that this is indeed the case. After all, the cultural mandate was given to Adam in Eden, as God’s image-bearer, in a state of innocency, prior to the Fall. ‘Adam and Eve, together with their progeny, were to serve as God’s representatives on earth and to fit the entire planet to serve as a habitation for God to the praise of his glory.’ But humankind has been banished from Eden, and God’s image in us has been distorted and tarnished. By nature we are in no position to exercise godly dominion over all the earth. But in redemption God’s image is being renewed in us (Col 3:10; Eph 4:24), and this happens as the gospel is proclaimed, in obedience to the Great Commission.
Too often, Christians have interpreted and applied the Great Commission too narrowly. They have understood it as requiring the evangelisation, baptism, and bringing into church life of individuals. But the scope of the commission is very broad: ‘Teaching them,’ says Jesus, ‘to observe everything that I have commanded you.’
John Frame writes:-
Psalm 24:1 affirms that ‘the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it’. This be so, we will not erect an artificial division between the sacred and the secular, between evangelism and cultural responsibility. Redemption in Christ equips us to fulfil the cultural mandate, and enables us to progressively bring all things under the wise and loving rule of God.
As Howard and Packer put it:-
Summarising a section of this article by Norman Wells.