Missional Mandate: Filling the Earth

In the beginning of the Theodrama, God created humanity as God’s image upon the earth and blessed them with a vocation. God called humanity to partner with God in the filling, co-creating, and shepherding of the creation. That we are the image of God is our identity, and the task God has given us is our vocation. We are both God’s image and God’s co-worker or partner.

When God chose Israel as the firstborn among the nations, God invested this same identity and vocation in their life. Israel’s was God’s child or image, and they were tasked with filling the land God had given them, creating a just and compassionate society as a light to the nations, and caring for the land God had given them.

When God poured out the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, God renewed Israel, and this included Israel’s mission. Now, this new community would extend this human vocation through its commitment to the reign of God in the world through the Lord Jesus, Israel’s Messiah. Renewed Israel was to fill the earth with the glory of God, create just and compassionate communities as lights among the nations, and care for the earth.  While the human vocation is the vocation of renewed Israel, that vocation is also enlarged as now renewed Israel represents the reign of the Messiah and serves the goals of the Messiah for the creation.

The first task of the kingdom of God is to fill the earth. The original commission in Genesis 1 was to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” The book of Acts applies this same language to the community of Jesus as well.  For example, Acts 6 uses the same words from the Greek translation of Genesis 1. In Acts 6, “the disciples were increasing (or, multiplying) in number” as the word of God was fruitful and continued to grow and spread. Further, Acts 12:24 says, the word of God continued to advance and gain disciples. Or, to translate it another way, the church continued to grow, that is, to be fruitful, and multiply. The church experienced the blessing of God’s work so that it became fruitful and multiplied.

Just as humanity was fruitful and multiplied in the beginning, and just as Israel was fruitful and multiplied in Egypt and in Canaan, so also the church was fruitful and multiplied in Jerusalem, Judea, and to the ends of the earth. The Jesus community is a discipling movement. The disciples grew and multiplied by making disciples, by inviting others into the kingdom of God through faith in God’s Messiah. The early church followed Jesus, who himself made disciples and called his disciples to make disciples by baptizing them into the name of the Triune God and teaching them to follow Jesus in everything.

In this way, the disciples of Jesus will fill the earth with the glory of God. Just as divine imager-bears were to fill the earth with other image-bearers, so now disciples of Jesus are to fill the earth with other disciples of Jesus.

This is part of Paul’s excitement when he writes to the Colossians. He gives thanks to God that just as the gospel “is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among” them from the first day they heard the story of God’s kingdom (Colossians 1:6).

The goal of God is that Jesus himself will “fill all things” (Ephesians 4:10), and part of the process by which Jesus fills the earth is through disciples making disciples. This is our kingdom vocation.

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