“…submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)
As we begin to explore how the New Covenant scriptures guide us back into how we use our Subdue and Rule Mandate properly, let’s do a quick refresher.
After God created the earth and its creature, He created humanity to serve as His viceregents.
Our Divine King set human beings in place as His viceregents to represent Him to His creation (as kings) and creation to its King (as priests).
The two functions of king (Genesis 1:28) and priest (Genesis 2:15) were granted to Adam and Eve and equally shared.
At humanity’s start, God gave Adam and Eve the command to “subdue the earth and rule its creatures.” Subdue and rule means to bring the untamed world outside of Eden under control and maintain it as the couple was doing within Eden’s boundaries.
The Subdue and Rule Mandate is the source of our drive for dominion, our urge to take control of the world around us, shape it to our liking, and maintain it.
Just like the commands to “fill the earth (reproduce)” and “not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (do it My way),” the Subdue and Rule Mandate/dominion drive is built into human nature as part of our basic operating system.
Humanity’s Fall in Genesis 3 did not end those original three commands, and they remain in effect to this day for every human being. But while humanity is driven to reproduce and control the world, we were broken spiritually at the Fall, died to God, and disconnected from Him. Therefore, from birth, our sex and dominion drives are out of God’s control and subject to our rebellious human urges and desires.
While the Fall did not end the Subdue and Rule Mandate, the Fall perverted it. When God commanded humanity to subdue and rule creation, His command never included other human beings. But when we disconnected from God, humanity turned to subduing and ruling each other because, after all, human beings are just another “creature” of God’s creation.
The result is that rather than subduing and ruling the world with each other, human beings strive for dominion against or over each other. As I see it, this is the source of all interpersonal conflict throughout history, from one-to-one struggles to world wars. Why?
Everybody wants to rule the world.
And so we fight against each other when someone infringes, encroaches, or tries to usurp what we believe is our “domain.” We chafe when someone makes choices for us that we don’t like. We steal to gain control of whatever we want to possess. We go ballistic when someone is driving slow in “our lane.” We become frustrated and then angry when people don’t do things our way, or they try to impose on us.
Seriously, it’s a mess.
Husbands vs. wives. Children vs. parents. Family Feuds. Citizens vs. government leaders. Employees and employers at odds with each other. Cheating to win during sports events. Efforts to dominate as many people as possible using spiritual beliefs. Environmentalists using “stewarding nature” as an excuse to force others to live their way. Marxists using environmentalism to control whole societies. Scientists manipulating nature to create diseases to help despotic governments control or even destroy people. Wars.
It all goes back to Genesis 1:28.
Do you see how sick the Subdue and Rule Mandate’s drive for dominion gets when divorced from God’s boundaries?
Every one of us does this because it’s installed in our nature, and we can never get rid of it because God wanted it that way. And since God wanted it that way, He created a plan to restore everything precisely as He designed it. That’s the Bible summarized.
So what breaks the cycle and restores us to our default setting of “Godly Viceregent?”
He was His Father’s perfect, sinless Adam 2.0. Jesus is what humans were supposed to be, and He is who we will be.
Between Genesis 1 and Revelation 22, Jesus’ death and resurrection stand as the re-creation point. The Cross and the Tomb make it possible for us to break the bondage of rebellion and be willing to step back into our role as God’s viceregent with Jesus as our model. He showed and taught us how through His life. Then He died to set humanity’s restoration in motion.
And from the moment of our salvation, we enter Viceregent School as we “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
We no longer have to strive against others for control of our personal worlds. With the indwelling Spirit’s help and God’s word to guide us, we’re now free to graciously work alongside each other, not against, to bring our worlds under control for the Lord and manage them as He would and for His glory. If the ghost of our old nature raises its head in sin, we can stop, seek forgiveness from the Lord and the person we’ve offended, and begin anew.
So, let’s dive into the New Covenant scriptures to see how Jesus’ Subdue and Rule Mandate reset takes hold of His born-again community of disciples.
The Subdue and Rule Mandate and the New Covenant Scriptures
Why is it important to understand the Subdue and Rule Mandate was never meant to be exercised over other people? Because it helps explain some of the critical events and guidelines in the New Covenant scriptures.
Through the New Covenant, God provided a means to help His people use their dominion drive according to His will and in His way. The Apostles’ writings have a multitude of illustrations and teachings which show us how God expects us to work side by side without infringing on, encroaching upon, or usurping another’s personal world or “domain.” The Apostles’ letters also have numerous guidelines and restraints inspired by the Holy Spirit to teach New Covenant believers how to fulfill their dominion mandate without giving in to the urge to control others. Even if individuals’ worlds collide and conflict erupts, the New Covenant scriptures also show how to address and calm those conflicts and restore people to working side by side.
The following part on the Subdue and Rule Mandate and the New Covenant scriptures will cover some broad areas and specific examples of how the dominion mandate is to be exercised under the New Covenant.
The Subdue and Rule Mandate and the New Creation (Acts 1-2)
The Subdue and Rule Mandate’s reset began at Pentecost (Shavu’ot, Feast of Weeks) with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s arrival marked the onset of the New Covenant, according to Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 11, 36.
The activated New Covenant brought the promised new heart and spirit through the Spirit’s work, which empowered God’s people to respond to Him (Ezekiel 11). The Holy Spirit regenerated human vessels as He took up residence (Ezekiel 36), as evidenced by the signs of a “violent rushing wind… from heaven,” the physical appearance of tongues of fire, and the disciples’ Spirit-enabled speaking in new languages, unknown to the recipients.
These signs signaled the Torah’s internalization, God’s covenant terms by which His people would live. This action is vital to reset and guide our dominion drive after our spiritual regeneration. Jesus modeled the Holy Spirit’s guidance, power, and motivation to direct our Subdue and Rule Mandate (Luke 4:16-21). The Subdue and Rule Mandate’s restoration was foreshadowed by the commissioning and activities of the 12 and 70 disciples sent out as Jesus’ advance team. The disciples-on-a-mission-from-God took dominion over sickness and demons by Jesus’ delegated authority and power (Luke 9:1, 10:19). But while Jesus’ Subdue and Rule training time with the disciples was temporary, the Subdue and Rule Mandate’s total restoration was one of Jesus’ many promises to His disciples at the Last Passover (John 14:16-17, 26; 16:13).
The Holy Spirit revealed the Subdue and Rule Mandate’s reset through the Spirit-inspired and empowered works which the apostles began to exercise at Pentecost. “When Peter saw this, he addressed the people: “Fellow Israelites, why are you amazed at this? Why do you stare at us, as though we had made him walk by our own power or godliness?” (Acts 3:12, emphasis author). The Spirit’s supernatural activity through the reborn disciples was clearly recognized by the Jewish leadership, “After they had Peter and John stand before them, they began to question them: ‘By what power or in what name have you done this?’” (Acts 4:7). Remarkably, the Sanhedrin members acknowledged the disciples’ exercise of dominion through demonstrated authority and power in Jesus’ name (Acts 4:17-18).
The remainder of the book of Acts records the apostles and the messianic community extending God’s dominion from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, and outward to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). God’s kingdom dominion officially reached the Gentile world in Acts 10, which prompted the new issue, “What to do with these Gentile believers?” How was the community of Jewish believers going to work alongside the Gentiles who were joining God’s kingdom through faith in Jesus and helping them extend God’s dominion through new Gentile people groups?
The Subdue and Rule Mandate and the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15)
The Jerusalem Council not only settled two fundamental questions, 1) to what extent are non-Jewish believers bound to keep the Torah and 2) mandatory circumcision upon conversion, but the leaders also gave an excellent demonstration of utilizing the Subdue and Rule Mandate within the messianic community by not imposing undue or harsh control (Conquer and Dominate) on the incoming Gentiles.
The Subdue and Rule Mandate’s reset began on a community level because of the concern addressed during the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. The circumcision debate arose from questions about how to assimilate non-Jewish believers into the new messianic stream of Judaism. Since non-Jews were converting to Judaism, the natural assumption was they would convert the way Gentiles usually did into the various streams of Judaism via circumcision and the requirement to keep the law of Moses (Acts 15:5) (Saldarini).
Peter argued it was God’s sovereign choice to extend His kingdom to the Gentiles because the Gentiles’ faith demonstrated it alongside the manifestation of the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:8-9), the same indicator of God’s kingdom coming to the Jews in Acts 2. Furthermore, God did so without the traditional conversion requirements of circumcision and Torah observance. Peter’s argument against the conversion/Torah obligation requirement was, “why are you testing God by putting a yoke on the disciples’ necks that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10). Peter asserted Torah observance was difficult enough for Jews who were born under the Torah. How much more for Gentiles who were not and had no frame of reference?
Paul and Barnabas then recounted the work of their mission among the Gentiles, buttressing Peter’s point that God affirmed Gentile salvation with signs, miracles, and wonders without the conversion prerequisites (Acts 15:12).
The halakhic (official Jewish legal) decision rendered by Chief Rabbi Ya’akov (aka James) (Friedman) could have moved one of two ways. The first way could have affirmed the traditional halakhic conversion demanded by the Pharisee believers in Messiah Jesus (Acts 15:5). The Conquer and Dominate drive sometimes displays itself through demands to adhere to religious law strictly. In this instance, strict obedience to halakhic law. Such strict compliance is about sticking to the letter of the law. However, James chose the second way, the godly form of Subdue and Rule, which allows for the spirit of the law, guided by the Holy Spirit, to determine proper observance and not impose strict interpretations and narrow applications.
James’ godly Subdue and Rule decision defended the supremacy of God’s dominion over His community by binding the Gentiles to basic Torah laws, “Therefore, in my judgment, we should not cause difficulties for those among the Gentiles who turn to God, but instead we should write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from eating anything that has been strangled, and from blood.” These four reiterated laws are base-line Torah commands; no idolatry (Exodus 20:4-5), no sexual immorality (Leviticus 18), no misuse or abuse of blood (Leviticus 17:10-12), and basic kosher law, likely for table fellowship between the Jewish and Gentile believers (Leviticus 17:13).
At the same time, the requirement of Torah observance by the Gentiles was “loosened” to allow believing Gentiles the freedom to grow in godly practice according to the Torah’s instructions. “For since ancient times, Moses has had those who proclaim him in every city, and every Sabbath day he is read aloud in the synagogues” (Acts 15:21). The “requirement” of Torah observance was replaced with the “expectation” that the Gentiles would learn Torah and grow in compliance, thus not binding the Gentiles to the level of Torah-observance demanded of the Jews.
Why is this important? The Jerusalem Council anticipated the Gentiles would learn how God wanted them to live as they attended synagogue and interacted with Jesus’ Jewish followers. Allowing the Gentile newcomers to enter God’s kingdom God’s way (by faith) and submit to His dominion without oppressive requirements is a mark of properly using Subdue and Rule within the expanding New Covenant community. Spirit-led flexibility is vital for proper New Covenant Subdue and Rule.
James showed his submission to God when he declared, “For it was the Holy Spirit’s decision—and ours” (Acts 15:28), placing the Council’s decision as a cooperative one between God and the messianic court, with God taking the primary role. James’ wisdom and compassion are also evident in his decision, “we should not cause difficulties for those among the Gentiles who turn to God.” With this decision, James affirmed Jesus’ declaration that the Torah remained in effect for the New Covenant community while allowing Gentiles to “ease into” a new lifestyle guided by the Torah. This decision became the basis for the apostolic teachings for practical living, as presented by Paul.
Yes, we await the “restoration of all things” when Jesus returns, and the entire world is under His control as His Father’s perfect Viceregent and our King. But God’s promised restoration is already at work in us as we’re “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2), and we learn how, as a community of believers, to subdue and rule side by side as God’s kingdom expands through Jesus’ body.
Friedman, Dr. David, James the Just – Yaakov HaTzaddik presents Application of the Torah
Saldarini, Anthony J. Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees in Palestinian Society, A Sociological Approach
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts
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