Genesis 1:28-2:3 — The Creation Mandate and Sabbath Rest

In this episode of Proclaiming Christ we discuss the creation mandate given to Adam and the promise of Sabbath rest. We invite your comments and questions.

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Proclaiming Christ is an audio program focused upon biblical preaching. In each episode we will discuss the process, method, and goals of preaching biblical texts from a uniquely Reformed perspective. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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Jason D

7 years ago

Great stuff guys… very edifying!

Mark G

7 years ago

This was a very rich & encouraging show. I enjoyed it. Lot’s to think on.

I am wondering if and how the idea of antithesis in the theology of Paul fits into this early Genesis account. Vos in his Pauline eschatology points out that antithesis lies behind the dualities one commonly sees in Paul such as the present age & the age to come, old and new, first Adam and last Adam, etc. I would think one might expect this to appear pretty early in Genesis. This seems to more obviously come into play in the story of the temptation by the serpent, the fall, the curse, the enmity between the seed of the woman & the serpent by God, the expulsion from the garden, etc. but I suspect it might occur even earlier at least implicitly; for example, maybe even in the creator / creature distinction through which God covenantally condescends to mankind and places him in a probationary state. Another possibility is the duality between creation of heaven and earth as distinct realms and God taking His Sabbath rest, i.e., being enthroned, in heaven while man is given dominion on earth which includes judgement, e.g., of the serpent who is Satan.


7 years ago

Great stuff!

Question: How would the early part of this conversation impact the Christian’s view on having children in marriage? It seems the OT says it’s mandatory.

Mark Winder

7 years ago

Hello Brian,

I tried to reply to this below. I think you have a good point for discussion, though I don’t think it would make the “reproduction” mandate mandatory for all believers today in the same way that it was for Adam. Adam was created as a family unit – completed with the creation of Eve. I believe that all believers – unmarried, or unable to bear children – can fulfill that mandate as we understand it in its fruition through the church today. Hopefully below I’ve explained my reasoning.


Rich Barcellos

7 years ago

I sought to do much of what you recommend in this book (see below). These were sermons turned into a book ms. I argue that the end is that to which the beginning tended to, that to which Adam failed to attain, and that to which Christ takes creation via redemption/new creation. It is a brief Beale/Fesko/Kline/Alexander for “dummies.” 🙂 http://www.amazon.com/Better-than-Beginning-Creation-Perspective/dp/0980217997/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_t_1_XNK1


7 years ago

Regarding Gen.1:28, I would have hoped to hear more about how this applies specifically to children. I understand how, in the new covenant, the eunuch has his place in the new covenant as much as the married person, but at the same time I’m not sure I follow the thinking of the dominion mandate translated into fulfillment with the great commission/disciple-making. The repeated message with the patriarchs seems to be that of the blessing of children, the psalmist praises the man who “fills his quiver with arrows”(children), and throughout this history of Israel blessings seem to be defined largely in terms of children (conversely the punishment of Israel is seen in children taken from them/they fall into the sins of Molech-child sacrifice worship, etc). It’s hard to take all of that and apply it to the new covenant and that all of this translates into terms of the great commission. Not sure I agree, and in thinking about this more, isn’t one of the best ways to fulfill the great commission in having a large fold in the home and then laboring, by God’s grace, in raising them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord?
Besides, if the church relegates the importance of something like the creation mandate in terms of having children, and enough people follow this thinking, eventually there won’t be any children for the church to disciple… 🙂

By the way, I noticed something odd with the audio: there’s a periodic clipping sound effect, almost like scissors-snipping, throughout the broadcast. I haven’t noticed this with other audio I’ve been listening to, so wondering if you guys know what that is all about?

Mark Winder

7 years ago

Hello Rob,

Thanks for your comments, and thanks for listening. There is a bit of an audio popping that we are trying to figure out and eliminate. Eventually, we’ll track it down, but in the meantime, I hope it’s not too distracting.

I think Brian’s comment above expresses a similar concern regarding the dominion mandate and the connection to children. I agree that “be fruitful and multiply” has application to children. The command to be fruitful is given to the animal kingdom prior to the human kingdom, with the obvious meaning that the animals are to multiply. Perhaps you’re right in that more time could have been spent in the biological multiplication to which this mandate calls us. “Blessing” itself carries with it the connotation of multiplication. God commands the animal kingdom – and also the human kingdom – to multiply in order to rule in the realm in which he has placed them. In my opinion, it is appropriate to bring in Ps. 127 – “blessed is the man who fills his quiver!” If I remember correctly, I made that application when preaching on Gen 1:28.

But when we view “be fruitful” in light of the rest of Scripture, I don’t believe that is the primary intention of the command today.

The second set of commands in that same blessing is about “ruling” – vs. 28 – “subdue it and have dominion” – that the image of God could be replicated all over the globe – that as God rules the heavens, so man would rule all over the earth. Humankind, ruling as God’s vice-regent, was to build a kingdom on earth that would give glory to God. They were to spread God’s name over all the earth, and they were to produce a royal race of image bearers. God crowns them with glory and honor and sends them out to their tasks.

The problem is, of course, humankind sins, the entire created order falls, and humankind can’t rule as he should. Satan usurps this role. He couldn’t have God’s throne, so he takes man’s. He couldn’t rule over the heavens, so he rules over the earth. That’s why Satan is spoken of as the “ruler of this world.” Merely having children, even for believers, can no longer fulfill this mandate. The image of God has been thoroughly contaminated (though not obliterated). One must be redeemed before he can rule after the image of God.

So the restoration of dominion comes through the victory of the gospel.

The writer of Hebrews walks us through this story in 2:6-10:
“It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.”

The writer of Hebrews is quoting from Psalm 8. It speaks of man, given a place of dominion, but fallen under the dominion of sin. He takes the psalm, which speaks of man, and applies it to Christ (Heb 2:6-10):

“But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.”

Adam is given a kingdom, but he fails. Instead of exercising dominion, he falls under the dominion of sin. God must provide a way for him to escape the dominion of death and sin, and so we see the Covenant of Grace (Gen 3:15). God will ensure an offspring and from that offspring bring salvation from the dominion of sin. Here “be fruitful and multiply” takes on a new dimension. Isaac and Rebekah had children – but they did not both qualify as a fulfillment of this mandate – only the one whom God redeemed.

In Gen. 12 we’ll see that God calls Abraham out of a country of darkness to form the promised offspring, and he blesses him – giving him the commission that is first given in the Garden of Eden. Adam fails. Noah – as righteous as he was – fails. Here the mandate is given to Abram. This time not directly as a command, but as a promise. What man has failed to do – God will do. The children of Abraham would multiply and fill the earth – populating the kingdom that God created for them.

It was through the blessing and line of Abraham that the seed of redemption would take root and grow, culminating in the ultimate blessing – the seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ, the second Adam – the final Adam – the pure, true, and exact image of God. He comes, frees his people from the tyranny of sin, and rules and reigns in a way greater than the first Adam could ever have done. By his perfect life, defeat of Satan, death, and resurrection, all who are united to Christ will rule and reign as God intended back in Genesis 1.

In the meantime, the mandate of dominion applies to us in the spiritual sphere. The church is called to reproduce. To be fruitful. To make disciples of every nation – to take the good news of the gospel of God in the image of Christ and spread it all over the earth. Through the testimony of Christ the Church bears the gospel forth throughout the globe, to recreate the image of God in turning lost souls into sons of God. And in carrying out the promise to Abraham – in taking the gospel all over the world, we are declaring the name of Christ – the one who is in himself the fulfillment of the promises made to and the responsibilities placed upon Adam.

We build the kingdom of Christ through our spiritual offspring. As God gave provision to Adam in the garden to fulfill the mandate, so also he gives gifts to the church to fulfill its mandate (I Cor. 12; Eph. 4, etc.).
An excellent resource on this is found in John Fesko’s “Last Things First.” I highly recommend that. http://www.wtsbooks.com/last-things-first-john-fesko-9781845502294 John points out that in the Greek translation of the Old Testament there is a direct explicit correspondence the blessing of the offspring and the great commission. He concludes, “With the advent of the second Adam, Christ takes up the work of the dominion mandate by producing offspring with his helpmate, the Church, and creates those who bear his image.” I believe that is well said.

Even if you are unable to bear children, or are not married, you still can fulfill the command “to be fruitful and multiply,” and can have many offspring – as did Paul, who considered Timothy to be “my true child in the faith.” And this we do until we receive the “new creation,” where we will live in perfect fellowship with God.


7 years ago


Thank you for the excellent exposition. In my ethics I tend to emphasize the dominion mandate as setting forth the normativity of the heterosexual family and the importance the sexual complementarity of men and women in family. In this perspective I assume the permanent importance of family and complementary sexuality in God’s plan. Of course this like everything else must be redeemed and elevated (crucified and resurrected) through Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

But to recognize a further, deeper, and more important fulfillment of the mandate does not vacate the basic and immediate fulfillment. Of course I do not think the first fulfillment of the mandate is complete without the full fulfillment in Christ. Ultimately marriage and family is unto the glory of God in union with Christ. However, I don’t think that this means that children are simply optional or merely a matter of preference. Even if the dominion mandate is only complete in Christ it doesn’t follow that the originnal design is replaced or vacated. God from creation placed us in family and for many (most) Christians this remains one of the ordinary means of sanctification. So if we are called to marriage we are calle to children (this is the obvious emphasis of the Scriptures taken as a whole), albeit marriage is now given its full meaning and theological value in the great commission and the work of the church. In sum, the family and children remain ordinary means of sanctification but they only fulfill this funciton within the context of church and the great commission.

Does this fit with your understanding?

Best regards,

Benjamin Smith


7 years ago

Thanks for taking the time to answer Mark. Very helpful!!

My initial thought after reading your comment is that it’s up to a Christian family as to whether or not they want to have kids. I’d be cool with that.

Also, a tangentially related thought. – The great commission commands to make disciples of all nations. Piper in Let the Nations Be Glad says that what Christ meant by “all nations” was some from every people group, and not every individual Gentile believer. This seems to fit nicely with what you wrote. …Piper also makes the connection between Gen 12 and Matt 28.

All good stuff to think about. It’s very interesting and the first time I’ve heard such teachings. =)


5 years ago

It might be Sabbath rest for the men, but certainly not for the women.

Saturday night washing and ironing of Sunday clothes for the kids, baths, shining shoes.

Sunday morning is the worst day of the week, rushed, hectic, kids being rebellious in their ‘can’t do anything clothes.’ Then there are the miles to drive, can’t be late for Sunday School, then church, then home for the Sunday roast and fixings, out for visitation, kids misbehaving, back home for supper, more miles to the evening service, kids restless before falling asleep in the pew, back into the van, back home, put away all the Sunday clothes, get ready for Monday with tired kids. Tell me again about the rest part.



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