The Grace and Glory of God in Man's Dominion Over the Earth

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Grace and Glory of God in Man's Dominion Over the Earth

In God's good and gracious providence, I have finally arrived at a place where I can pick up and begin working through one of the number one reads on my list for five years now: Scott Hafemann's work The God of Promise and the Life of Faith (Crossway). Recommended to me some five years ago now by my friend Tim Gombis (professor NT at Cedarville University) as the leading work on biblical theology, I have been 'chomping at the bit' to read both this one and Daniel Fuller's work The Unity of the Bible. No doubt these are basics to biblical theology, but time and life have neither one afforded me the resources to get at them...until now.

As I completed the acknowledgements, introduction, and first pages of chapter one one thing strikes me that has not before: the grace and glory of God in man's dominion over the earth. Think of it for a moment with me, based on Genesis 1:26-28. According to Hafemann, "To be created in God's image is therefore to have a particular point of comparison (not to oneself but to God) and a distinct command (not simply to reproduce but to exercise dominion)" (p. 24). Until tonight, it never dawned on me that God displays His grace and glory through these two things.....even though most persons have no innate sense of this point of comparison or distinct command.

Most persons who have been born and have traversed their paths in life have been, are now, and will always be unsaved. The gate that leads to life is narrow, so is the path, and few there are who find it. Yet look at how unsaved man has dominated the globe with his technology and philosophy. The man who had the vision to unify the world before Christ was a pagan. The Medieval king who served as the architect for the governmental law which much of the world enjoys was a pagan. The man who invented electricity was a pagan, and so were the men who invented the airplane, car, radio, telephone, and just about every other major technological invention we possess today. The point is clear: most of society's advancements have come through pagan men and women.

Yet oddly enough these advancements have furthered the dominion of God's earth, thus fulfilling His direct command. Isn't this just like God? Isn't it just like our God to give so graciously and abundantly to men the minds they have used to advance His dominion of His earth. He gives them food to eat, clothes to wear, houses to live in, and salaries to live upon. And look at how our world is blessed to have their inventions and discoveries! His common grace to them has afforded us the fruits of their labors. How gracious of God to keep on giving to men who never praise His name or acknowledge Him as the source of every detail of their labors.

Though they fulfill His direct command to subdue the earth and have dominion over it, however, they do so without reference to Him as that "particular point of comparison." As Romans 1 describes, "although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened" (1:26). Yet God is careful to work this futility in such a way that their minds are not darkened in a way that blacks out the intellects which produce such wonderful blessings that most enjoy today. Despite the fact that, "they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever" (1:25) He pours out His grace upon them to enable them to bless the world with the fruit of their minds and hands...minds and hands which are still part of the imago deo. This is how God shows His grace then.

But He also shows His glory, doesn't He. He shows it by getting from them what they purposefully do not give to Him. They wilfully and intentionally exchange the truth about God for a lie, and purposefully refuse to honor him as God or give thanks to Him." But look at how He gains the glory for Himself despite their rebellion. He has used and continues to use pagan men to accomplish His command to subdue the earth and have dominion over it. God means to get glory for Himself through obedience to His central command for mankind...even if it means mankind doing it through their own self-righteousness. See how He gets glory for Himself by using the wills of sinful men against sinful men to accomplish His purposes! Is this not truly wonderful and amazing?

What is more, He will sadly yet justly gain more glory for Himself on the day when these men are punished forever because of their rebellion. He will glorify His justice and holiness on that day when He shows them His sovereignty over their stubborn refusal and how He used their minds despite the sin that raged within it...all in order to achieve His primary purpose for them on earth. He glorifies Himself by having given and continuing to give to them life, sustenance, and breath to achieve His will, and then glorifying Himself in their just destruction.

This pattern is nothing new. He did the same thing with Israel...creating them and using their stubborn wills against them for His own purposes to crucify their own Messiah in order that the rest of the world might be brought into covenant with Him. He did the same thing with the pagan nations surrounding Israel, creating them and using their rebellious hearts against them for His own purposes to discipline His people Israel and send them into Babylon in order to spread the gospel to the rest of the world.

What a mind-boggling God I serve! How marvelous are His ways, so motivated by glory that cannot be figured out, and so armed with grace toward even those creatures that defy His precious gifts. His ways are past figuring out, and such wisdom is too deep for me.

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