“One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which command is the most important of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The most important is Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.’” (Mark 12:28-31)
Now that we have a good idea of what the Subdue and Rule Mandate is about, how it was corrupted, and how Jesus revealed its proper use and restored it through the New Covenant, we can explore the practical guidelines for the newborn messianic believers through the Apostolic writings. The great value of these teachings is they show us how to keep our lives under God’s dominion as we develop a godly “Subdue and Rule” life in an ungodly “Conquer and Dominate” world.
The most basic way to live the Subdue and Rule Mandate is to love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). Why? Because loving God and our neighbor is the most effective check on our drive to control everything around us, which, sadly, tempts us to try to control God and other people. Remember, our Subdue and Rule Mandate’s scope only includes God’s creation and its creatures, not Him or human beings.
As Jesus’ disciples, purposefully loving God and our neighbor causes us to be ever mindful about pleasing Him, working for our neighbor’s benefit, and refusing to harm them. We hurt others when we infringe, encroach, or usurp any part of their lives without their permission, especially in an ungodly way, as we’ll see shortly. Our goal is to always exercise our dominion drive in concert with others, not over them.
The law of love encompasses the entire Torah and the Prophets. Therefore, if a person seeks to learn how to exercise their Subdue and Rule Mandate properly, a thorough study of God’s word is crucial! But what about the New Covenant scriptures? Here are a few broad areas for us to consider before we get into specifics.
Submit to God
The first thing we need for our reset dominion drive is to commit ourselves to the original “Eden protocol,” the Tree Prohibition, i.e., submitting ourselves fully to God and His boundaries. According to Paul, “The mindset of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it is unable to do so” (Romans 8:7). Under the New Covenant, our minds have been set free from sin’s power and we’re finally able to submit to God, even though we still fight the constant battle between the Spirit and the flesh (Galatians 5:17). This battle must be joined if one chooses to be under God’s dominion to exercise dominion as our Heavenly Father desires effectively. James tells us to submit to God (James 4:7), and the writer of Hebrews also encourages the believers to submit to God’s discipline even if it is painful (Hebrews 12:9).
Fleshly desires and urges pushed Adam and Eve to use their God-given dominion for their own purposes. Therefore, after first submitting ourselves to God, our next step, according to Paul, is to deny our flesh, “to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth” (Ephesians 4:22-24, italics author).
Putting off our old self and putting on our new self makes God’s people a living sacrifice (Romans 12:12). Being a living sacrifice is painful because it demands submission and self-control. Paul encouraged the believers in Corinth to exercise self-control and to “discipline (the) body and bring it under strict control” (1 Corinthians 9:27). Submission to God and surrendering ourselves to Him and others form the basis for the next step, exercising proper control over one’s world without harming others as we do so.
Submit to One Another
To submit means “to yield or surrender (oneself) to the will or authority of another” (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language). Submitting ourselves to others is the opposite of the Conquer and Dominate drive seeking to overpower and control others into submission to our dominating will. Paul tells the Ephesians to “(submit) to one another in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:21, italics author). When God’s people remember they’re under God’s absolute dominion, that should create fear in us, an “extreme reverence or awe,” or even a fear that is “a very unpleasant or disturbing feeling caused by the presence or imminence of danger” (Ibid.) that serves as a deterrent against using one’s God-given dominion to harm others.
Jesus’ Parable of the Faithful and Wicked Servants shows the attitude of a servant who has no fear of his master. “But if that wicked servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delayed,’ and starts to beat his fellow servants, and eats and drinks with drunkards…” (Matthew 24:48-49). But the wicked servant should be afraid for “that servant’s master will come on a day he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (vv. 50-51).
Our drive to Conquer and Dominate others often leads us to forget the fear of God and seek to control others even if it hurts them. As God’s people, we must be submitted to others and not abuse them out of reverence for our Master. For the record, does submission mean we allow other people to hurt or abuse us? Absolutely not! Another person’s dominion ends where ours begins, much like the Libertarian phrase, “You’re right to throw a punch ends at the tip of my nose.” Being in submission to another person means the mutual recognition of personal boundaries (our domain) combined with a willingness to work alongside them.
Walk in the Spirit and Not the Flesh
One of the best ways to counter our desire to dominate others is to draw on the Holy Spirit’s help to assist us in exercising control, for the Spirit helps bulldoze our fleshly urges (Galatians 5:16). When we’re “walking in the Spirit” we’re submitted to God and controlling ourselves for His sake. If we’re walking in the Spirit, self-control is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit we should develop. The other fruits of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, vv. 22-23a) are crucial elements that we need as we work alongside other people when our personal worlds intersect. Without self-control, we often quickly jettison the other fruit of the Spirit.
Serve One Another
While submission is our proper posture, serving is our proper mode of operation as we control our world and extend God’s dominion through our lifestyle’s influence. As described earlier, Jesus is our model for serving (Philippians 2:7). Under the New Covenant, Jesus’ followers have the God-given ability to “serve in the newness of the Spirit…” (Romans 7:6, italics author). Paul writes to the Roman messianic community that the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, and it is with this kingdom attitude that God’s people are to serve (Romans 14:17-18). Peter states that as God has given each of us a gift, it is to be used in service to others (1 Peter 4:10).
Reject Pride, Be Humble, Do Not “Lord Over” Others
Pride is nuclear fuel for the Conquer and Dominate drive. Pride is the mindset that causes us to regard ourselves as better than another and drives us to seek greatness, position, and produces within us a “lord over others” attitude. To combat pride, the Apostolic writers encourage God’s people “not to think of himself more highly than he should think” (Romans 12:3) and “not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:26). Instead, Jesus’ followers should be “like-minded and sympathetic, love one another, and be compassionate and humble” (1 Peter 3:8) and “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).
The Conquer and Dominate drive hungers to achieve prideful personal gain and glory. This pride-filled mindset moves us to look down on others or show favoritism. James fought against this in his letter when he wrote, “My brothers and sisters, do not show favoritism as you hold on to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. For if someone comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and a poor person dressed in filthy clothes also comes in, if you look with favor on the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Sit here in a good place,’ and yet you say to the poor person, ‘Stand over there,’ or ‘Sit here on the floor by my footstool,’ haven’t you made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1-4). Paul guides his Roman congregation similarly, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation” (Romans 12:16). Humility is the kryptonite that weakens our Conquer and Dominate attitude and actions. (Hat tip to Superman comics.)
Surrender Personal Rights
The drive to Conquer and Dominate pushes us to demand our rights rather than focus on our responsibilities. The humble Subdue and Rule mindset that operates according to God’s heart leads us to surrender our rights to see God’s kingdom expand and to accomplish His work.
Paul’s work with the Corinthian believers is a powerful example of humble service rather than a prideful assertion of rights. In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul affirms his lowly position, “For I think God has displayed us, the apostles, in last place, like men condemned to die: We have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to people. We are fools for Christ… We are weak… we are dishonored! Up to the present hour we are both hungry and thirsty; we are poorly clothed, roughly treated, homeless; we labor, working with our own hands. When we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we respond graciously. Even now, we are like the scum of the earth, like everyone’s garbage” (1 Corinthians 4:9-13).
Paul’s words starkly contrast with many in ministry today who label themselves apostles and prophets and insist on honorariums, preferential treatment, and perks as rights that they believe they are due for their “service” to the body (washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/all-the-private-planes-of-televangelist-kenneth-copeland). Rather than insist on his rights, Paul was willing to surrender them if they got in the way of him carrying out his God-ordained mission (1 Corinthians 9).
Refuse Retaliation, Vengeance, or Retribution
Retaliation, vengeance, revenge, retribution, and the like are all acts of our Conquer and Dominate drive when it doesn’t get its way or if someone intrudes on our world or we’re put upon, or we’re harmed, or even if we’re just slighted or offended. Our Conquer and Dominate response is to strike back, reclaim our honor (even if justified), or push back. When we assume our world is “my domain,” then any intrusion is an offense we must remedy rather than allow or overlook.
How stunning then are Paul’s and Peter’s guidelines to “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14) and “Do not repay anyone evil for evil” (Romans 12:17a) or “do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, ‘Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). Our proper response is to be “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink” (Romans 12:20). Peter’s model for not falling into a Conquer and Dominate retaliatory strike was, of course, Jesus, “…when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).
Why not strike back? Why leave it to God? Because as servants serving shoulder to shoulder, God’s people are to look first to their Sovereign to settle matters. Our King listens to His viceregent servants who have the right attitude as they work on His behalf (1 Peter 3:12). When faced with the temptation to respond with retaliation to another’s overstep, no matter how severe, born-again disciples are instructed to “not repay evil for evil” but always to pursue “good for one another and for all” (1 Thessalonians 5:15).
Live in Peace and Harmony, Reject Dissension, Rivalry
We were designed to serve God shoulder to shoulder, side by side, working together to expand and continue the King’s work. We see this affirmed strongly for God’s New Covenant people by Paul’s many encouragements to his congregations to live in peace and harmony (Romans 12:16; 12:18; 15:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:13; Hebrews 12:14).
The opposite of this is disharmony and discord, which leads to division. The Conquer and Dominate attitude demands its way as it drives to control everything. Peace and harmony often require us to surrender our preferences and adapt to others to see God’s purposes advance. Significantly, Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians launches with an opening salvo against the divisions in the congregation, “For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers and sisters, by members of Chloe’s people, that there is rivalry among you” (1 Corinthians 1:11). Paul’s answer to the divisions and rebuke to those at odds with each other is to remind them they are on the same team. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s coworkers. You are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:6-9). The drive to Conquer and Dominate works for self and is a perfect breeding ground for rivalry and division. The drive to Subdue and Rule cooperates with others and thrives in peace and harmony.
The Royal Law Sums Up the General, Broad Principle
The ultimate antidote to our sinful Conquer and Dominate drive, and our most vital motivation to use our Subdue and Rule Mandate God’s way is love. Decisions must be made based on love whenever two or more believers’ worlds interact. It doesn’t matter what individual tasks or goals are involved, and we must choose how to handle competing desires, personal preferences, and conflicting viewpoints with love as our overarching goal. The right choice will always come down to aligning with the standard of God’s character and His will, for God is love. Our right choice depends on how we embody His character and will as we work together for Him.
Jesus stated that the Torah’s greatest command is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands” (Matthew 22:37-40). If we take Jesus’ teaching in a covenant context, love is covenant faithfulness to God and other believers. Regarding the Subdue and Rule Mandate, love means demonstrating allegiance to our King and covenant faithfulness to other viceregents by us not exerting dominion over them. Covenant love means agreeing to exercise our dominion as the King wills and cooperating with another person carrying out their Subdue and Rule function within the King’s domain.
For New Covenant believers, love is not optional. Not only are we commanded to love God and our neighbor as ourselves, but Jesus also extends this as He has with other Torah laws to give the command its fullest meaning and intent. “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
Not only are God’s people to love other people in general, but the King’s viceregents are to love each other at a level that goes far beyond human limitations. We are to love to the level of divine standards “as I (Jesus) have loved you.” Only a New Covenant born-again believer can access this level of love because we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to assist us as He lives in us and works/loves through our lives.
James, who set the standard for godly Subdue and Rule within the messianic community during the Jerusalem Council, also wrote to his messianic believers in the Diaspora, “Indeed, if you fulfill the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well” (James 2:8, italics author). Paul wrote similarly to the Roman believers, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:9, italics author).
When our personal worlds collide, love is crucial to make multiple desires, expectations, hopes, goals, processes, preferences, and sensitivities interact well and slide past each other as two viceregents/imagers/shapers/believers work to bring their respective worlds under control for God and maintain them.
Whereas pride is the nuclear fuel for the perverted Conquer and Dominate drive, humility is the coolant, and love is the antidote and neutralizer. Rather than “Who is the greatest in the kingdom?” the question changes to “What is the greatest command?” and “How may I serve you?”
Love morphs “lording over” into humble service, even for proven leaders with remarkable personal abilities and worldly status. Love is the ultimate directive for exercising dominion (1 Corinthians 13). Love does not infringe on another’s God-given rights or encroach on another’s responsibilities. Love does not usurp another’s rightful sphere of dominion over their own lives. Love empowers us to cooperate as we willingly bring our given domain (our lives and the world around us) under control and steward it in love and harmony with others.
Conquer and Dominate demands that others “lay down their lives” for us. Love-infused Subdue and Rule moves us to surrender our lives for another’s as we work together to see God’s kingdom expand. When we, as our King’s viceregent, exercise dominion over our lives in a godly way amid an ungodly dominion-seeking world, the King’s image stands in high relief.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language
Pastor Jay Christianson
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