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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Resurrection life | Ruling with God

Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘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.’

Genesis 1:26–28  

 

On one occasion, while [Jesus] was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’ Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’

Acts 1:4–8

 

And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’ 

Revelation 5:9–10  

 


 

So far in this series we have reflected on how Christ’s resurrection renews our identity as the image of God and brings with it an intimacy with God’s presence. It is striking that Genesis 1 not only views this as a status of relationship; it’s also a commission.

It was common in ancient times for kings to bear the title ‘Image of God’. This was both a validation of authority, since the king ruled on behalf of the gods, and an acknowledgement that as the gods’ representative, a king also spoke as a herald of heaven.

The vision of humanity as God’s image is, therefore, as a community of kings ruling as God’s representatives, according to his justice and speaking in his name about his goodness. This commission is given to all humanity – men and women working together as one – and becomes the foundation for Israel’s calling to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6), and ultimately the vision for resurrected life in Christ (Revelation 5:10).

At first glance, the commission to subdue the earth can seem to anticipate a kingship defined by conflict. A quick Bible word-search reveals that, more often than not, the word ‘subdue’ is used in contexts of battle and slavery. Micah 7:19, however, redirects this imagery to depict God subduing the sins of his people as an act of compassion, while

Genesis 2:15 reframes this as a charge to care for and protect creation, and these reveal the richness intended in Genesis 1.

The task is not to subdue as people subdue but to subdue as God subdues. Rather than looking forwards through the Bible to find acts of subduing, if we turn to watch God subduing the heavens and the earth over six days of creation, we see the divine pattern for what ruling as kings in God’s kingdom should look like. Every day, God sees the potential for life, makes space for it, and calls it into being.

This is at the heart of Jesus’ commission to his disciples to go to the ends of the earth, empowered by the Spirit to carry God’s authority, and emboldened by the Spirit to be heralds of heaven as we witness to Christ’s resurrection. This is a daily call to look on the world with compassion, to find opportunities to share your experience of God’s goodness, to stand up for justice, and to pray in the power of the Spirit for healing, restoration, and new life in others.

Dr Freddy Hedley

Dean of Studies, WTC Theology 

Where are the opportunities for you to show compassion to others and care for creation today, ruling with God as we call life into being?

 

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