What Is Biblical Dominion?
by Brad Sherman

We must put on the urgency and commitment that comes with the state of declared war and restore the Kingdom paradigm of Christian dominion in the church and in the generation to come.
    The previous article, A New Paradigm of War, raised the question: "What is biblical dominion?" This article is the promised follow up and will come in two parts:

Part I
  • What Biblical Dominion Is Not
  • Three Dominion Mandates in the Bible
  • Biblical vs Christian
  • Jesus Gave us "How To" Instructions on Taking Dominion
Part II
  • Restoring the Christian Mandate: A Paradigm Changer
  • A Picture of Christian Dominion In Your Town
  • What Makes Christian Dominion a Reality

These articles, including A New Paradigm for War, can be viewed in their entirety on the Archive Page at GetPurpose.org

Note: This article is adapted from Lesson 3 of a 24 part study course called: The Kingdom Paradigm: Common Sense Theology for Politically Minded Christians

What Is Biblical Dominion?
Part I

What Biblical Dominion Is Not
     Dominion is a biblical word with a valid application, but is often relegated to one particular eschatology or worldview. Dominion Theology, or those who are called "dominionists," are generally thought of as those who advocate a coercive theonomy or the establishment of a kind of political theocracy prior to Christ's return based on Old Testament biblical law.  If we simply applied the example of the Old Testament laws of God as a model for government today, without applying New Testament grace, one could certainly expect the outcome to be a coercive and oppressive form of government. Problems arise when no differentiation is made between Christian principle and  biblical law in general.

    An extreme example of dominionism would be the dominion mentality practiced into the dark ages which made Christianity mandatory and resorted to coercive measures in an attempt to fulfill their misguided version of the dominion mandate. The same error developed in many post reformation churches as well. Prescribed forms of worship were issued and anyone stepping outside those guidelines were subject to punishment and sometimes death. Such an attitude bears a striking resemblance to the methods of radical Islam as it seeks to establish a caliphate to dominate the world. Christian dominion is far different. First let's look at the original dominion mandate.

Three Dominion Mandates in the Bible
    There are several places in the Scriptures where we are given what can be termed a dominion mandate. The original one was given to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.  We also see virtually the same mandate repeated to Noah and his sons just after the flood.

Eden Mandate
Genesis 1:26-29 (NKJV)
    26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, 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 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
    29 And God said, "See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.

Post Flood Mandate
(Genesis 9:1-7 NKJV)  
    1 So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.
    2 "And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand.
    3 "Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. 4 "But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.
    5 "Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man's brother I will require the life of man.
    6 "Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.
    7 And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; Bring forth abundantly in the earth And multiply in it."

    The Eden Mandate and the Post Flood mandate are virtually the same. Be fruitful, multiply, replenish the earth, have dominion over the other creatures. However, due to the fact that sin and atonement came into play between these two mandates, we see a difference between the mandate given to Adam and the mandate given to Noah. Noah's mandate includes a basic principle of civil government regarding the shedding of blood: "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man."  But in neither case do we see the original intent of these dominion mandates as instructions to dominate other humans who are created in the image of God.  

    Being created in God's image implies that people were intended to have a built in "God nature" and are designed to act in a godly manner on their own without coercion. But through the sin of Adam, the sin nature became part of the human race and this conflicting nature has produced oppression, bondage, and bloodshed ever since. A surface observation of history might be described as one person or people group struggling to have dominion over another. As men multiplied on the earth and evil increased, God certainly gave certain people dominion over others as expressions of His judgment as a means of keeping evil in check. But this not how it is originally intended to be.

Jesus' Dominion Mandate
    In the fulness of time, God came to earth as the Redeemer, Jesus Christ.  Jesus came to establish a New Covenant and restore true meaning of dominion and reinstate the dominion mandate. He demonstrated something drastically different from the letter of the law that, by design, was intended to show us the need for grace and redemption.

(Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV)
    18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
    19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
    20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

    This passage is aptly called The Great Commission.  But the title "Dominion Mandate" fits equally well, if not better.  In Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary,  commission is defined as:  Charge; order; mandate; authority given. Webster defines mandate as:  A command; an order, precept or injunction; a commission. So we see that commission and mandate are virtually synonyms.

    Looking again to Webster's definitions (1 and 4), he defines dominion as: 1) Sovereign or supreme authority; the power of governing and controlling or 4) Government; right of governing.  So when we read that Jesus has been given all authority and tells us to disciple the nations, this is the authority to govern.

     There are parallel passages to Matthew's mandate found in the Gospel of Mark (see Mark 16:15-16). We also see another account of Jesus giving His disciples the dominion mandate in Acts (see Acts 1:6-8).

(Mark 16:15-16 NKJV)
    15   And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
    16 "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

(Acts 1:6-8 NKJV)
    6  Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"
    7 And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.
    8 "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

    Notice again that Jesus' instructions to be witnesses to the uttermost parts of the earth was a response to the disciples' question: "Is it now you are restoring the kingdom (government of God) to Israel?" They wanted to see the kingdom established on earth so Jesus told them what to do: take the good news of the Kingdom to the ends of the earth.

Biblical vs Christian
    As already pointed out, exercising Christian dominion is not about establishing a Mosaic theonomy or theocracy forcing people to become Christians. Some groups of Christians believe Christians should gain positions of authority in government and reconstruct a biblical system of punishment for crime modeled after the Law of Moses. Under such a system, things like adultery, homosexuality, blasphemy, idolatry, and even cursing or dishonoring parents were punishable by death. Those who think this way should take another look at the example of Jesus set in John Chapter 8.

(John 8:5-11 NKJV)
    5  "Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?"
    6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.  
    7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first."
    8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.
    9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
    10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?"
    11 She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."

    The law of Moses clearly stated that an adulterer should be put to death (Lev. 20:10) and this woman was caught red handed.  So was it biblical to put the woman to death?  Yes, it was biblical, but was it Christian?  Since Christ Himself is the definition of "Christian" the answer is No. So what happened here? Did Jesus condone the woman's sin? No, He clearly told her to go and sin no more. There was no compromise of truth. Adultery, homosexuality and every other sin listed in the entire Bible is still sin and always will be. But what Jesus did was introduce the concept of grace into civil government.

    Of course, this raises questions on how civil government should respond in the context of a multitude of different crimes and the circumstances surrounding them. We obviously have to have consequences for breaking the law. Often times, it is a judgment call, thus the need for judges. Laws alone, no matter how many or how precise, can never replace the mind of Christ. But that is a subject not being addressed here.  The point here is that dominion is an appropriate term for the mission of the church, a mission which includes application to civil government.

Jesus Gave Us "How To" Instructions On Taking Dominion

    Jesus issued "how to" instructions along with His dominion mandate. He said to be a witness to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all that He had commanded (see Matt 28:19-20). There is no coercion here, but rather preaching the good news to all, personal conversion (represented by baptism), and teaching people to observe His commandments.

    Teaching the nations to observe all that Jesus commanded is where the rubber meets the road and the culture rises up in protest.  This protest from the culture, as well as the application of the dominion mandate, can be seen in Jesus' parable about stewardship.

(Luke 19:11-15 NKJV)  
    11 Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately.
    12 Therefore He said: "A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return.
    13 "So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, 'Do business till I come.'
    14 "But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, 'We will not have this man to reign over us.'
    15 "And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.

    Like the mandate given in Acts 1:6-8, we see that the context is the kingdom/government of God being established. Jesus was nearing Jerusalem and they thought He would establish His kingdom government. Since it was not yet time, Jesus gave them a parable which painted a picture for his disciples that explained to them that:
  • He would entrust His resources to them;
  • He would leave for a period of time;
  • They should conduct His business while He was gone
  • Then He would return to establish the kingdom, evaluate how they handled the resources He had entrusted to them.
     There is much more to glean from this parable, but the interesting part here is verse 14. The citizens of the nobleman expressed their hatred for him saying they would not submit to his reign. Their resistance to his reign begs the question: "Why was the nobleman's rulership over them an issue, since he was away on a journey to a far country?" The obvious answer is that the nobleman's servants were conducting his business in his absence and by doing so they were to some degree applying the nobleman's values and principles to the surrounding culture. They were governing.

    The parallel is obvious. As we carry out the dominion mandate given to us in Matthew 28 and Acts 1, it includes an application to the culture. Not all citizens will like it, but that is not to prevent us from doing so.


Watch for Part II of this Article which will include:
  • Restoring the Christian Mandate: A Paradigm Changer
  • A Picture of Christian Dominion In Your Town
  • What Makes Christian Dominion a Reality
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