On the passage commonly referred to as the Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission
Gen.1:26-30 is known as the Cultural Mandate, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; exercise dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living creature that moves on the earth.” (v.28). The Cultural Mandate is seen as a directive and taught as a commission given to mankind to explore all areas of creativity (arts and sciences) and as a duty to harness, develop and control earth’s resources. Some even see it as a command to have children. However, these words were not meant to convey a duty, but are rather to define the freedom of man in the form of a blessing upon Man’s natural inclinations. It can be thought of as descriptive of what man is and does. God is giving a benediction, not a requirement to undertake a task, “God blessed them. And God said to them…” (v.28). Is the content of the blessing unstated, separate from the specifics that follow or is the blessing being specified? God again spoke the first half of the blessing, “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them…” (Gen.9:1, 7) after the judgment of the flood when life was taking hold anew. The content of the declaration encompasses all that there is. Why would it be necessary to command such pursuits since they relate to what man was made to be: artist; creator; explorer; investigator; builder; organizer…like the God whose image he bears? Both at the creation and after the flood, there is a clear difference between the benediction with attendant gifts (1:29-30; 9:3), and the command with its warning (2:16-17; 9:4-6).
This BENEDICTION upon mankind has at least two fundamental parts: 1-be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth - the same type of blessing that God gave to water creatures and birds, and which is understood to be for all living creatures, a benediction corresponding with their natures, “God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply…’” (v.22). However, with man, there is a declaration accompanying this benediction which describes the proper legal circle within which the blessing is to operate, “a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (2:24) [see Boundary Conditions at Cause & Effect; War against Propositional Truth, Reading & Discussing Scrip. http://pop.eradman.com/]. 2-subdue the earth and exercise dominion over the other living creatures - unique to man because man is different from the other conscious creatures, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.” (v.27) [see p.102-103, 221-222 TRILOGY & GENESIS IN SPACE AND TIME, ch.3 by Francis Schaeffer; Keeping the Sabbath in Christ http://pop.eradman.com/]. The fall of Man did not change his essential nature nor did it change that of the other creatures. It did, however, affect the blessing of God upon man in both parts, for fellowship with God had been lost, and life is now marked by hardship, suffering, and death. Because of these, man is no longer able to find fulfillment in the natural pursuits of his life upon earth.*
On the passage commonly referred to as the Great Commission
In the Bible, God is extolled for two great works, creation (Jer.10:16; Ps.136: 1-9, 25-26; 33:6-9; 148:1-13; Rev.4:6b-11) and redemption (1 Pt.1:3-9; Col.1:15-20; 1 Cor.8:6; Rev.5:8-14). They are the two universal causes to praise and worship Him. As with the benedictions upon Man at his creation and at his fresh beginning after the judgment of the flood, so God has something to say to the new Man upon his rebirth and coming to life in Christ; “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. As you are going therefore, disciple all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I will be with you always, even to the consummation of the age.” (Mt.28:18-20) [Participles going, baptizing and teaching modify the verb disciple. See CONTAGIOUS FAITH, 2000, by Dave Rahn and Terry Linhart, p.41-42] Christ is charging His people to disciple the world. The commission conveys a redirection of purpose and gives man a part in it commensurate with God’s ongoing work of redemption. Redemption is the regeneration of man, a returning of people from under the curse, a restoration of Man to be what he was meant to be, once again under God.
The Great Commission does not coerce Christians under
some threat to witness. Christ is not
just giving Christians another thing to do, one more command to obey. By presenting us with a clear vision of
His purposes, God provides us with a defining description of redeemed man,
and focuses the whole of our lives on the most meaningful endeavor
imaginable. Thus the Great Commission is
also a benediction, paralleling the one at creation, in conjunction with
both the nature of man and the nature of the new man. It is just as natural for converted people to
move in this direction as it is for all people to move in the direction of the
blessing at creation. God is giving us a
means of fulfillment in a world substantially damaged by sin and its
consequences, where the certainty and dread of death have become controlling
over man’s every venture. In this
respect, the Great Commission can be thought of as a means of grace. Acting out of our very natures as people
created in God’s image, we go on with our lives in societies and cultures
throughout the world. But, after one
comes to God through faith in Christ, there is an exciting difference, he has
been brought to God and has a larger frame of reference. Further, Christ promises to accompany us on
the journey, “I will be with you.” So, as we come to Christ at various stages in
our lives and in all kinds of situations, living in this world takes on new
significance. Now in all we do, we
not only act as men living in God’s world, but as redeemed people living unto
Him. Going about our lives is infused
with a larger calling, an overall purpose of reproducing and conquering* by means of the gospel under His
authority and in the power of God the Spirit.
and Culture by J.
* For the endeavor of one man to relate to the real world both as a man and as a redeemed man, see Machen on True Science http://pop.eradman.com/.
COMMANDS IN SCRIPTURE (see chap.12 of Future Grace by John Piper)
"Six days shall you labor...(Ex.20:9)" Is this a requirement to work six full days out of every seven?
It is common to hear preachers speak of New Testament commands to rejoice, pray, give thanks, etc. I once heard a pastor mention that one of the reasons we [Christians] sing is that we are commanded to. Is that why you sing, for obedience? Is that also why you rejoice, because God told you to or forces you - like “Dance!” while shooting at the feet as in westerns and cartoons? What is it about us that seeks to turn every encouragement in the Bible into an earth-shaking TEN COMMANDMANT-type ORDER or INJUNCTION? There is something about the way we speak of exhortations that creates the climate of law and has the effect of law. My son, Kevin, once made the comment about services he was attending, “Even though grace is taught, it still feels like law.”
Here are some imperatives regarding worship:
Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon His name; make known His name among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; tell of all His wondrous works! Glory in His name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD in His strength; seek His presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that He has done…(Ps.105:1-5)
…do not rejoice in…but rejoice that…(Lk.10:20)
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything…let your requests be made known to God. (Phil.4:4-6)
Uh oh, we blundered into another problem. Ever heard “worry” depicted as a sin? Why, because we are REQUIRED by a military-style COMMANDED not to, right? Let’s stray a little further:
We ask you, brothers, to respect…and to esteem…Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good…Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances…Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thes.5:12-22)
…let each of you speak the truth…Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor…(Eph.4:25-28)
What! - There is a COMMAND to be angry?o Now wait a minute, I thought commands were fairly straightforward and simple like do this and don’t do that. It sounds like God is laying on us every burden He can think of. Do we need to know Greek and Hebrew to understand this? Well, it wouldn’t hurt, and some Greek is included as footnotes. But just like the preceding article on the Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission, these things take some thought. For instance, what is the sense of “Greet every saint…” in Phil.4:21? Is Paul’s statement more along the lines of asking (as in requesting a favor) or telling (as in making a demand)? Ask yourself, what is the spirit of Scriptural imperatives as you encounter them [see Determining How Bible Passages May Be Used http://pop.eradman.com/].
O. Besides superintending through the issuance of formal demands, directives, and instructions, imperative language has a wide range of uses along the lines of directing, managing, reminding, or helping: advising; counseling; prompting; emphasizing; steering; urging; admonishing; encouraging; recommending; cautioning; warning; dissuading; advocating; etc.
180. THE IMPERATIVE MOOD is used in commands and exhortations. Respecting other methods of expressing a command, see 67, 160-167, 364.
Lk.17:5; and the apostles said to the Lord, Increase our faith. Jn.17:11; Holy Father, keep them in thy name.
182. to express consent, or merely to propose a hypothesis. Mt.8:31, 32; and the demons besought him saying, If thou cast us out, send us away into the herd of swine. And he said unto them, Go. Jn.2:19; Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. 1 Cor.7:36; and it need so require, let him do what he will; he sinneth not; let them marry.
Luke 6:37; judge not, and ye shall not be judged. Cf. Jn.2:19, above.
184. Any tense of the Imperative may be used in positive commands, the distinction of force being that of the tenses of the dependent moods in general. Cf. 95 ff. In prohibitions, on the other hand, the use of the Imperative is confined almost entirely to the Present tense. A few instances only of the Aorist occur.
67. The second person of the Future Indicative is often used as an Imperative. Jas.2:8; thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
160. The Hortatory Subjunctive. The Subjunctive is used in the first person plural in exhortations, the speaker thus exhorting others to join him in the doing of an action. Heb.2:1; let us run with patience the race that is set before us. 1 Jn.4:7; beloved, let us love one another.
162. The Prohibitory Subjunctive. The Aorist Subjunctive is used in the second person to express a prohibition or a negative entreaty. Mt.6:34; be not therefore anxious for the morrow. Heb.3:8; harden not your hearts. Mt.6:13; and bring us not into temptation.
164. (a) The Aorist Subjunctive forbids the action as a simple event with reference to the action as a whole or to its inception, and is most frequently used when the action has not begun. Acts 18:9; speak and hold not thy peace. Rev.7:3; hurt not the earth.
165. (b) The Present Imperative (180-184) forbids the continuance of the action, most frequently when it is already in progress; in this case, it is a demand to desist from the action. Mk.6:50; it is I, be not afraid. Jn.5:14; sin no more.
When the action is not yet begun, it enjoins continued abstinence from it.
Mk.13:21; and then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Christ; or, Lo, there; believe it not. Cf. Mt 24:23.
In Mt.21:19, on the other hand, the emphatic predictive sense, there shall be no fruit from thee hence forward forever, is more probable, being more consistent with general usage and entirely appropriate to the context.
What does it mean: "Be angry, and yet do not sin?" In making the English translation of the Bible, the Greek text of Eph.4:26 posed a challenge. Throughout the Bible, there aren’t any verses that speak positively of the human emotion of anger. Was this verse a command to be angry? Does this passage suggest that anger is not sinful? When read within the context of Eph.4:27, how does "sundown" and "Satan" shed light on our understanding of what Paul was trying to tell the church? And how does this all square with v.4:31?
Grammarians approach this issue by examining the syntax and grammar of the Greek text. This specific case is an example where a study on the mood of the verbs provides the basis to understand Paul.
Mood is a feature of verbs that indicates the attitude of the speaker and the likelihood of the verbal action occurring. It reflects the reality of the speaker’s statement regardless if the statement is true or not: does he think the verbal action will occur or possibly occur? The Greek language has four moods: indicative, imperative, subjective and optative.
The indicative mood indicates an assertion where a statement is presented as something real or certain regardless of whether the speaker believes it or not. Example: God is not mocked (Gal.6:7).
The imperative mood indicates an action of intention such as a command instructing another to a certain action. Example: Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind (Mt.22:37).
The subjective mood indicates probability with some uncertainty of an action. It is often used with a conditional statement (if – then clauses) and under certain circumstances, it may indicate a definite outcome. Example: so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places (Eph.3:10).
The optative mood indicates an action that is possible and is often used to communicate a wish or hope. Example: Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thes.5:23).
When studying the verbal mood of Eph.4:26, scholars have debated the merits of several possible syntactical translations; however, the following four represented the best possibilities. Each interpretation is listed with their verbal mood and is simplified without any presentation of the Greek terms.
1. If you are angry - conditional imperative imposes a demand to do what is commanded under certain conditions.
2. Although you may get angry - concessive imperative imposes a demand to do what is commanded as one may yield or concede.
3. Be angry (if you must) - permissive imperative is rarely used to indicate permission. This usage of the imperative does not normally imply that some deed is optional or approved. It often views that act as a fait accompli. In such instances, the mood could almost be called "an imperative of resignation."'
· The first three interpretive options are considered as one view, because there is little difference between them. For example, a concession is a type of condition, and permissive is very similar to the conditional as seen below. Despite their subtle differences of meaning in English, they all view Paul speaking of anger in a conditional sense.
· [Be angry is in the middle voice, possibly meaning, “Be angry with yourselves”]
4. Be angry command imperative. - The basic force of the imperative of command involves somewhat different nuances with each tense.
The academic discussion between those favoring the conditional view verses the command view will never be completely concluded; however, the following are the main points of how most see Eph.4:26. Verse 26 does not follow the typical conditional imperative grammatical structure, because its pattern is: imperative (i.e. angry) + conjugation (Greek term kai) + imperative (i.e. do)
If Eph.4:26 was a conditional imperative, it would have carried an injunctive force (if you are angry, and you should be, then you will not sin). However, its grammatical structure carries the force of a command, and Paul seems to encourage anger with the assurance that sin will not be the result (be angry and do not sin). But what does this really mean?
Literary Context: Eph.4:26 is found within a section that is defined at its border by two indicatives: "we are members of one another" (25) and "God in Christ has forgiven you" (32) Grammarians studying the verbal moods in Eph.4:25-32 have ten imperatives and two hortatory subjunctives. A hortatory subjunctive is a statement urging others to join in some action. It will always be the first person plural form of the subjunctive mood, and this often is found near the beginning of the sentence. It is usually translated as "let us…"
This section, Eph.4:25-32, speaks to the relationship of one Christian to another within the church body: "neighbor… one body" (25); "building others up" (29); "one another… Forgiving each other... you" (29). Paul’s exhortation of anger, which some commentators call righteous indignation, is directed within the church body! It is not righteous indignation directed towards non-Christians.
Theological Context: The prohibition of "all bitterness, rage and anger" found in Eph.4:31 creates a contradiction with v.26. If v.31 prohibits all anger, then v.26 cannot permit some anger. To base an interpretation by appealing to either verse by itself is wrong: all anger is the righteous duty of a Christian is just as wrong as claiming that all anger is sinful. What is Paul saying about anger in these two verses?
In v.31, Paul is speaking of malicious anger. There is an ascending progression to v.31: bitterness [and, kai] rage [wrath] [and] anger [what about the remainder of the sequence, and clamor and slander?]. In this context, v.31 is not prohibiting all anger but all anger arising from bitterness and rage. In verse 26, Paul makes a distinction that there is a type of anger, righteous [justified] anger, which is not sinful. When Eph.4:26b is considered (Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.), Paul seemingly sets a temporal limit to this righteous anger, be angry, but limit that anger.
In this context, Paul appears to be exhorting Christians to deal with the cause of one’s anger immediately [The noun is a strengthened form of the verb referring to what provoked the anger.]. And in the context of this section dealing with relationships between one Christian with another, Paul is encouraging Christians to deal with their "righteous indignation" immediately when the cause of their anger is another Christian. This is theologically consistent with Mt.18:15: "if your brother sins, go and rebuke him." [a directive that answers the question, What do we do about this?] Instead of an exhortation of personal anger, Paul is addressing the issue of church discipline. In essence, Paul appears to be saying, "do not sin by doing nothing – act quickly to discipline your brother [hold him accountable]."