What is the dominion mandate?

by Matt Slick

The dominion mandate is the command of God to Adam, and thus to all mankind, to take dominion over all the earth. It is found in the book of Genesis.

"Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth,'" (Genesis 1:26-28).

The command of God was for Adam and his descendants to have dominion over the earth and everything in it. The mandate is best summarized in Genesis 1:28, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." In order for us to accomplish the command of God, several things must be included. 

  1. Men and women must work together and have children who are then trained in a godly, Christian fashion to carry out the dominion mandate.
  2. We must learn how the world operates, which requires expertise in all areas of knowledge including engineering, mathematics, physics, aerodynamics, agriculture, etc. This way we can better fulfill God's command. Our offspring must then be involved in all these areas.
  3. The exercise of dominion must be done with wisdom, as stewards who are carefully and reverently acting in responsible ways with what God has entrusted to us in the world. We are not to destroy the land, overfish the seas, deplete the soil via farming, etc.

Noah

After Noah's flood, the dominion mandate was again given by God.

"And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. 3 Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant,'" (Genesis 9:1).

It is clear that God desires us to exercise dominion in the world. Since we are made in his image (Genesis 1:26) we are to reflect his sovereignty in our dominion and his wisdom in our actions. Because all people, Christian and non-Christian alike, are included in Adam (see Federal Headship), the dominion mandate is for everyone. However, Christians have abdicated much of their responsibility in this area and so unbelievers are now in control of engineering, education, business, agriculture, etc. The result has been famine, pestilence, large land fires, the creation of dust bowls, droughts, extinction of species, and much more.

Make Disciples of all nations

One of the manifestations of the dominion mandate is to make disciples of all nations. Jesus told us in Matthew 28:19-20, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

So, we're not only supposed to take dominion over the physical realm, but we are also to express a form of dominion over the spiritual one as well when we make disciples of all nations by spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, the dominion mandate is not a moralistic law that we're supposed to follow apart from Christ. After all, the Scriptures tell us what to do.

  • "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father," (Colossians 3:17).
  • "Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen," (1 Peter 4:11).
 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.