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.
Genesis 1:28 ESV
The Great Commission is important because it is Jesus’ final words to His disciples before He ascended into heaven. These are the words that Christ wanted to be ringing in our ears until He comes back. We would, therefore, do well to heed them.
But the beauty and weight of the Great Commission does not begin in Matthew but in Genesis.
Allow me to explain.
The first book of the Bible opens with the sweeping account of God creating everything. Within the span of six days, the heavens are formed, the seas are filled, and the earth is sculpted. All of creation was created and placed into order in less than a week by God the Creator.
And the capstone of His creation was Adam, the first human.
We are told that humans are unique from all other forms of creation because they alone were created in God’s image.
Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’ (Gen. 1:26)
Because of their status as God’s image-bearers, the Creator also gave humans dominion over all the earth. Every animal that swam, flew, walked, or crawled fell under the authority of those who bore God’s likeness.
But He didn’t just give them dominion. He also gave them a mission: multiply.
Humanity’s primary job was to fill the whole earth with more humans.
Have you ever wondered why God would command Adam and his wife, Eve, to multiply and fill the earth?
God could have instantly created billions of humans, filling the earth as it is filled presently. Why then did He only create two humans and command them to fill the earth?
The answer goes back to humans bearing God’s image.
If the earth was filled with humans, it was also filled with God’s image.
By living in obedience to God, we were created to display and to fill the earth with His glory.
And God intentionally left the earth unfinished, only creating two humans, in order that they might serve as His instruments for filling the earth with His image. Being made in God’s likeness meant God inviting us to participate in His work.
Of course, we also know that things went downhill fast.
In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve disobeyed God, plunging humanity into a battle-to-the-death against sin.
Providentially, God was not ready to give up on His image-bearers just yet, and in part two, we will explore how the Great Commission propels the Church to fill the earth with God’s image in spite of sin.