Living Temples

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 3 – The Image-bearers

[Bible references: Genesis 3:6; Isaiah 54:10; Jeremiah 29:1-23; John 2:19-21; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21; Revelations 15:8; 21:22]

Although God’s first image-bearers had close, unhindered, intimate contact with their Creator, there was enough space given them to think freely, as if they were not being watched all the time. It was in this space that they – and we – were given several mandates: procreation (be fruitful and multiply), stewardship (subdue the earth and have dominion over its creatures), and a cultural mandate (work it and take care of it).[1] We were given the assignment to be fruitful, to fill all the earth, discover its possibilities and care for the world in the same way that God would care for the world.[2] Just as God continues to create more living things and sustain all that he has created, we as his co-regents[3], can join him in sustaining and creating those things entrusted to our care.

  “There are two ways in which God imposes his law on the cosmos, two ways in which his will is done on earth as in heaven. He does it either directly, without mediation, or indirectly, through the involvement of human responsibility. Just as a human sovereign does certain things himself, but gives orders to his subordinates for other things, so with God himself. He put the planets in their orbits, bits, makes the seasons come and go at the proper time, makes seeds grow and animals reproduce, but entrusts to mankind the tasks of making tools, doing justice, producing art, and pursuing scholarship. In other words, God’s rule of law is immediate in the nonhuman realm but mediate in culture and society. In the human realm men and women become coworkers with God; as creatures made in God’s image they too have a kind of lordship over the earth, are God’s viceroys in creation.” [4]

We were also given the responsibility to subdue the earth and have dominion over its creatures. When there is resistance, we still have the responsibility to bring the rule of God to the world. Then we are given the responsibility to work and take care of the earth, this will expand from taking care of the garden to taking care of all of God’s creations. Implied in all these things is that we should do everything in context of God’s love, to care for each other and to care for the earth and its creatures with the mind of the God who created us for love.

The work that we were designed to do was more than just tending the garden. In Genesis 2:15, we were given a mandate to “work” and “take care of” the garden God had created. These tasks in light of Ancient Near East culture, were more of a priestly nature, taking care of this temple where we reside with God.

“The verbs ʿbd and šmr (NIV: “work” and “take care of”) are terms most frequently encountered in discussions of human service to God rather than descriptions of agricultural tasks… ‘bd can refer to … work connected with one’s vocation, to religious service deemed worship … šmr is used in the contexts of the Levitical responsibility of guarding sacred space, as well as in the sense of observing religious commands and responsibilities … it is likely that the tasks given to Adam are of a priestly nature: caring for sacred space. In ancient thinking, caring for sacred space was a way of upholding creation.”[5]

We were to take care of this place which was designed to be a “very good” place for us to flourish in, creating whatever structures we needed to “increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.” This task, this mandate, meant that we would eventually go beyond the capacity of gardening and create not just a bigger garden but cities, a flourishing civilization as pictured in Revelation 21 and 22.[6]

When examined closely, we can see the breadth of what was committed to Adam and Eve. Subduing the earth would entail many physical, social, and intellectual activities. In the gardening we can see cultivation and farming; in taking care of the animals, we can see shepherding and domestication; in the naming of the animals, we can see a cultural and scientific activity which required understanding the nature and attributes of the animals and establishing authority over them. We can see that God had created things to be beautiful and as his image-bearers we would be expected to also create beautiful things.

In the new earth, nature’s comeliness will reach its pinnacle; the wilderness itself will burst into blossom, and streams will gush in the desert (Is 35). To complement all this natural beauty, human culture will flourish. All the great creativity of humankind-artistry in music, dance, painting, woodcrafts, sculpture, architecture and more-will be brought into the New Jerusalem (Is 60).[7]

There is a sense in which we, as members of the Kingdom of God, now seem to be living in a foreign land. This puts us in a similar position as the Israelites were when they were taken in exile into Babylonia. During their stay in Babylonia, God’s instructions were to settle down, build houses, get married, have children and to seek the prosperity of the city they were sent to, for “if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

But above all these things we can do, we should not lose focus on who we are. We are creatures designed by God to be like God to be in relationship with Him, the God who is a community in Himself: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Everything we do should be done in context of who we are. We should remember that we were designed to be human “beings,” not human “doings.” This viewpoint become clear when we compare the Biblical view of creation to the view of other Ancient Near East cultures. For the surrounding cultures humans beings were created to feed the gods and serve the gods who created them, whereas the Biblical viewpoint sees God being the provider for the people.[8]

Originally, we see Creation designed as a temple, a place for us to “be” with God. Later on, Jesus refers to himself as the temple, a human in whom God resides. Later on, Paul declares that our own bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. So here again, we see the mystery of perichoresis, where we are distinct from the Holy Spirit, yet the Holy Spirit becomes a part of who we are. In this we see the mystery of perichoresis unifying the persons within God, unifying the body, soul and spirit within humans, and unifying God and humans.

[1] Jacobsen, Eric O. The Space Between: A Christian Engagement with the Built Environment, Baker Academic, 2012, Page 20.

[2] Crouch, Andy. “What is the Cultural Mandate,” The Village Church, 6 Jan 2017

[3] Walton, John H. “The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate (Proposition 4) InterVarsity Press. 2015 Kindle Edition.

[4] Albert M. Wolters. Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview (Locations 203-208) Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2005 Kindle Edition.

[5] Walton, John H. The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate (p. 105-106). InterVarsity Press. 2015 Kindle Edition.

[6] Busenitz, Nathan. “The New Jerusalem” Cripplegate, 8 April 2017

[7] Sherman, Amy L. Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good. Intervarsity Press, 2011 eBook location 291

[8] Walton, John. “The Lost World of Adam and Eve,” I “Proposition 12: Adam is Assigned as Priest in Sacred Space, with Eve to Help” (p.104) InterVarsity Press. 2015 Kindle Edition.


If the universe is God’s temple and we are now living in the 7th day, that is, the Sabbath, how are we supposed to live?


Read Genesis 1; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 6:16. What difference does it make if the universe is God’s temple or that our bodies are God’s temple?

Co-Sovereigns and Servants

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 3 – The Image-bearers

[Bible references: Genesis 1:26-28; Exodus 18:4; 19:6; Leviticus 26:17; Numbers 24:19; Deuteronomy 33:7, 26, 29; 1 Kings 4:24; Psalm 33:20, 115:9–11, 124:8, 146:5; Ezekiel 34:1-10; Matthew 3:16-17; 20:27-28; 23:11; Luke 22:26-27; Acts 2; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; 1 Peter 2:9]

God is the master of all creation, yet he has given to us the responsibility to take care of the earth. It is out of that mastery that we have managed to use the resources of the earth to create all the technological advances that we have. Unfortunately, in many cases we have abused our abilities; abusing not just the resources of the earth but often abusing each other.

In our sinfulness, we typically appeal to our call to sovereignty while forgetting our call to service. This very issue Jesus took care to remind us of on many occasions. If we mistreat the earth that we are placed in or if we mistreat others, then we dishonor not only the one in whose image we are made but even the other image-bearers of God. In fact, it is out of our call to sovereignty and service that we are called to love, to willingly give of ourselves to the service of God just as God gave of himself to us.

It is under the constraint of God’s love that he tells us to “subdue” and “have dominion” over his creation. As God’s stewards, our sovereignty means we have the responsibility to maintain the good in God’s creation, to bring order to it and to help his creatures flourish and fill the earth.

There are two dimensions to our responsibility to subdue and have dominion.

When Genesis 1 was written, it was hard work to cultivate the rocky soil and people had little control of the elements; people were more powerless than powerful. In that context we see the forceful aspect of radah (ruling the earth) that is evident in other instances in the Bible when that word is used. That is one dimension of our responsibility.

But another dimension of our responsibility to have “dominion” is tempered by gentleness, such as when God spoke through Ezekiel’s to the “shepherds of Israel” and reprimanded them for using cruelty and violence and caring more about themselves than the people they were responsible for, serving themselves instead of the people.

In our service, we are dependent one another. We were not made to be self-sufficient; we not only need to have a relationship with God but also with each other. God allowed the first man to see that he needed another human before God presented the man with a woman to be his ‘ezer kegnedo. In Hebrew, ‘ezer is usually translated as “helper” or “deliverer” and is most often used to describe God delivering his people; kegnedo is usually translated as “in front of” or “opposite” or “parallel to”.[1]

Later on, in scripture we see that we are called to be a nation of priests and a body where all the different parts have a purpose as they work together. We are called not just to a restored relationship with the one who made us but are called together as a people to serve each other and to serve the world around us.

[1] Blue Letter Bible “ezer”; Bible Hub “Neged”


God provides the model of servant-leadership (see Chapter 2). What are some ways in which that should affect the way we take care of the earth and each other?


Read Mark 10:35-41. Think about how love relates both to sovereignty and service. What implications does that have for how we treat others?