Photo: the rebuilt downtown city – Omaha 2022
The Great Commission seen unfolding in Acts “re-powers” the Creation Mandate
In the first chapter of Acts, Luke recounts the ascension story. Jesus returns to heaven after meeting one final time with his disciples after he was resurrected from the dead. Before he leaves he gives them a commission. He tells them WHAT to do while we await his return to bring the competed kingdom, when he makes all the material world redone. It has been named “the Great Commission.” Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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” – Matthew 28:19-20. This, however, is not a new commission per se, but it is a fundamental restatement of the Creation Mandate. The Creation Mandate in Genesis 1:26-28 is the first “Great Commission.”
Before the fall God gives Adam and Eve a commission or a mandate in Genesis chapter one. He says to them, “‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” Their job vocation and calling was to make the rest of the earth look like the Garden of Eden. They were to be artists and gardeners, using the raw materials of God’s created world and create culture and order and children and society and fill the earth and run it as God’s vice-regents. But they sinned and the fall happens. Though it does not replace this creation mandate, this brokenness from sin makes it impossible to fulfill it. That is why in Genesis 3:16 we are told there will be a Second Adam to complete this job where the first Adam failed. This is Jesus Christ who centuries later comes on the scene to fulfill the Old Testament and move the church out in the power of the gospel to all ends of the earth.
Dr. Beale makes this argument when he writes in his book A NT Biblical Theology. We read, “We can speak of Genesis 1:28 as the first Great Commission, which was repeatedly applied to humanity. The commission was to bless the earth, and part of the essence of this blessing was God’s salvific presence. Before the fall, Adam and Eve were to produce progeny who would fill the earth with God‘s glory being reflected from each of them in the image of God. After the fall, a remnant, created by God in his restored image, was to go out and spread God‘s glorious presence among the rest of darkened humanity. This witness was to continue until the entire world would be filled with divine glory. Thus, Israel’s witness was reflective of its role as a corporate Adam, which highlights the notion of missions in the Old Testament… The Old Testament is the story of God, who progressively reestablishes his new creational kingdom out of chaos over a sinful people by his word and Spirit through promise, Covenant and redemption, resulting in worldwide commission to the faithful to advance the kingdom and judgment (defeat or exile) for the unfaithful, unto his glory…The New Testament transformation of the storyline of the Old Testament that I propose is this: Jesus’ life, trials, death for sinners, and especially resurrection by the Spirit have launched the fulfillment of the eschatological already-not yet new-creational reign, bestowed by grace through faith and resulting in worldwide commission to the faithful to advance this new-creational reign and resulting in judgment for the unbelieving, unto the triune God‘s glory” (Beale 2). Acts is the unfolding story of what the Creation Mandate looks like empowered by the indwelling Spirit to reconcile all things to God. It is the playing out of the Great Commission.
This impacts our calling to the vocation and work that God still has over us today. Christ has “re-commissioned” us in his work in this world. He will present the whole world cultivated like the garden of Eden to become a city to be given back to his Father for his glory. We are being remade – body and soul. The Kingdom is expanding. We are commissioned.
Beale (2), G. K., A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (Michigan: Baker Books, 2011).