The following is a lesson I wrote for the discipleship groups at our church, which is why there are discussion questions toward the end.
1. Biblical Basis for Taking Dominion
One of the main reasons God made humans in his image was so that they might “take dominion” over the earth. We learn this in Genesis 1:26-28.
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
“Dominion” is kingly language, which means that in making us in his image, God the King gives us the responsibility of co-ruling his created order with him. Mankind is to “rule” over creation in a way that reflects God’s sovereign and caring rule. We are to “subdue” (v. 28) creation, which implies that we are to harness land, plants, and animals for the good of mankind in a responsible way. This is what it means in Genesis 2:15, when it says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
2. The Challenge of Taking Dominion: Sin
Taking dominion over creation was easy to do before sin entered the picture. But, after Adam and Eve sinned against God, God punished them by cursing the ground. One of the results is that ruling over creation became difficult. As God told Adam,
17 Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, “You shall not eat of it,” cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground.
After Genesis 3, humans are still expected to “subdue” the earth and “take dominion,” only now it will be difficult. Now there will be “thorns and thistles,” and “pain” in our labor. One day, when Jesus comes again, he will remove the curse of sin (Revelation 22:3) and establish a new creation (Revelation 21:1) where we will rule with Christ (2 Timothy 2:12) over the created order as Adam and Even were meant to do from the beginning. But, until that day comes, “taking dominion” over all that God has entrusted to us will be challenging.
3. Taking Dominion Over Key Areas of Life
The curse of sin means that, left to itself, every area of our life and every aspect of our world is bent toward disorder, chaos, and pain; which means that “taking dominion” in a cursed world involves bringing order where there is disorder and bringing peace where there is chaos. As image bearers of God we are expected to “rule” as agents of order and peace, “subduing” every area of our life and of our world for the glory of God. God has given each of us various realms we are responsible for “cultivating and keeping.” We cannot allow the forces in any of these realms to rule over us. We must take dominion over them.
Here are some of the main areas of life over which we need to take dominion:
(1) Mind/Body, (2) Time, (3) Home, (4) Work
How are each of these areas, left to themselves, bent toward disorder and chaos?
Why is it so crucial that we take dominion over each of these areas?
How can you do better at “taking dominion” over these areas?
4. Qualities Needed for Taking Dominion
In order to take dominion over these and other key areas of your life, there are at least three personal qualities you need to develop. If you do not develop these qualities, your life and your world will frequently take dominion over you, rather than you taking dominion over them.
Whether this comes naturally to you or not, organizing is one of the main ways you can bring order to the chaos around you. Don’t let the chaos rule you. Take dominion over it! What is your plan for organizing your time, thoughts, family life, work, etc.? Do you have a calendar (on your phone or on paper)?
God told Adam that from Genesis 3 on (until Jesus comes back) subduing the earth would be difficult. This is why work, family life, personal spiritual growth, etc. is so hard. One of the key qualities we need to develop, then, is the quality of determination. The reason people tend to give up on jobs, marriages, bodily health, church commitments, and a host of other responsibilities is because they lack this quality. Why is it impossible to “take dominion” effectively in a fallen world without the quality of determination?
Can people depend on you to do what you say you will do and to be where you say you will be? When people hear that you are responsible for something, do they assume it probably won’t get done? Are you dependable? If your family, friends, employer, or church, etc. cannot depend on you, it’s probably because you are failing to take dominion over the key areas of your life listed above.