Over the last several hundred years, Christians have begun to take the Great Commission quite seriously as the church’s high calling from God. Through the movement of modern missions and the emphasis on personal evangelism, the church has risen to the challenge to see the Gospel of Jesus Christ carried to all peoples. And yet, the Great Commission is not the only calling that God has placed upon Christians; we must not forget the Cultural Mandate.
In Genesis 1:28, having created mankind in His image, male and female, God gives this new couple their calling as human beings. “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Because of the subsequent fall of mankind in Genesis 3, this task became much more difficult, but even after the fall Adam and Eve still have the same calling to be fruitful and multiply and to rule over creation. God repeats this calling again to Noah in Genesis 9 after the flood, and while the dread of humans would fall upon all animals, mankind was still to be God’s vice-regent on earth, filling it and subduing it.
The subtle message of the Gospel weaves its way through Cultural Mandate in the early chapters of Genesis and beyond. Mankind fails as God’s vice-regent in the garden, God in His judgment punishes but in His grace also allows the calling of the Cultural Mandate to remain upon the now imperfect human race. Years later, God sends His Son, the true King, the second Adam, to represent this fallen race on the cross and to rise again with all rule and authority over creation until He has subjected all things to God the Father. While all humans beings are still under the calling of the Cultural Mandate given at creation, in order for fallen mankind to most completely fulfill the Cultural Mandate of Genesis 1 and ruling in God’s name, they must be redeemed by the blood of Christ and forgiven of their imperfection and empowered and enabled by the Holy Spirit to be agents of the Kingdom of Light to advance the cause of Jesus Christ in this world. Thus we can accurately say that everything in creation is at its very base related to the Gospel because we will not completely fulfill our Genesis 1 calling without the work of the Gospel in our lives. We will not be the parents, workers, or caretakers of creation that we are supposed to be without the inner of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not to say that an artist or musician would paint better or sing better if she were a Christian, but she would have a deeper understanding and grasp of her high calling from God and a proper thinking and perspective about her place in creation and the value of what she is doing for culture.
However, that does not mean that everything is a Great Commission issue because it is a Gospel issue. While the Great Commission is about the Gospel, so too is the Cultural Mandate. In other words, the end goal of all things is not always evangelism! Imagine for just a moment that I see my neighbor across the street being attacked by a wild band of thugs. It is not the Great Commission or evangelism that causes me to call the police. Yet it is the Cultural Mandate, the calling upon my life to order culture to the glory of God and the working of the Gospel in my own life that causes me to cal the police. My neighbor does indeed benefit from the work of the Gospel in my life and my understanding of the Cultural Mandate, but I will probably not tell him that since I called the police he owes it to me to become converted. My performing as a professional athlete or businessman is not just so I can share the gospel with teammates and coworkers. I do not plant a nice garden and pick up trash in the woods just so I can share the gospel. While it would be great if I do get to share the gospel, I do those things because it is part of my role in culture and creation under the Cultural Mandate of subduing the earth and bringing it in line with the glory of God. The end result is that all of creation benefits, even if people in the end are not converted.
This is often referred to as God’s Common Grace. God’s special grace flows out through Jesus Christ to all who believe in Him, saving them, forgiving them, adopting them, transforming them, and one day, perfecting them. But God’s common grace also flows out to the non-believer, as ‘He makes it to rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.’ God’s common grace is closely linked with the Cultural Mandate from Genesis 1 and 9 because all of creation benefits as humans take their calling from God seriously. As I am transformed by the Gospel, I act out my salvation culturally and creationally in the world around me. I stand and say “this is not right, it must change,” or I praise the lovely and beautiful as evidence of God’s common grace in culture.
Which brings us then to issue concerning Civil Law. Is the Civil Law for a believer in Jesus Christ a Gospel issue? Absolutely! Through the Gospel I understand true justice, as well as concepts of mercy, grace, and redemption. I grasp the value of every human being and strive to ensure that the Law does not promote a justice that devalues humanity. The list goes on and on. With a redeemed mind and the knowledge of God’s natural Law and revealed moral Law, believers are better able to govern civilly in ways that are in keeping with the Kingdom of God. But just because we can relate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the the civil Law does not make it a tool to accomplish the Great Commission! Sure, the Law points to Christ, but we should not encourage Christians to become civil magistrates just so that they can witness! We should encourage our Christian lawmakers to make a Civil Law that upholds the Cultural Mandate to bring God’s common grace upon all peoples. You can’t go around killing people and whether you are or are not a Christian does not affect that fact!
And so, as I conclude, I come to the real issue that I began this article to address. Do our efforts to speak against homosexuality stem from our goal to fulfill the Great Commission or the Cultural Mandate? I would argue that one of the main reasons that we are losing our fight against the rising tide of homosexuality in this nation is that we are convinced we have to convert everyone first in order to have real conversations with them about sex. The truth, though, is that my neighbor does not have to be a Christian for me to call the police when thugs invade his home, and neither do I have I have to convert him before I can talk about sex. I can talk to my unconverted homosexual friends about the cultural issue of sex, which is a gospel issue no doubt, because I am not just under the Great Commission but I am agent of common grace under the Cultural Mandate. Do I hope they come to the Gospel and God’s special grace? Absolutely! But I can engage my unconverted cultural even now!