“God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over … every living thing’” (Gen. 1:28).- Genesis 1-2
Today we conclude our brief study of Christian ethics with a look at the first covenant that God made with humanity. When the Lord placed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, He established a bond with them and all their descendants. The requirements of this covenant are binding upon everyone who has ever lived, since all people are ultimately descended from them. People may ignore or deny this covenant, but they cannot escape it. It remains binding as long as the present order exists.
We often note that the most fundamental requirement of this covenant was the stipulation not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, largely because this is the commandment that our first parents failed to keep (Gen. 2:15–17; 3). It is also true, however, that the covenant of creation also contains several positive stipulations, or things that tell us what to do and not just what not to do. Among these are the clear injunctions to preserve the sanctity of the marriage bond between one man and one woman, the necessity and propriety of godly labor, and the keeping of the Sabbath (2:1–3, 15, 18–24). Of course, no person but Jesus has kept any of these requirements perfectly, and so we can only be reconciled to God through faith in Christ alone (Rom. 5:1–11). Nevertheless, these requirements are still to guide our lives, and this obedience is necessary even for non-Christians because they are still in covenant with God through Adam.
These standards, or creation ordinances, are important because they give us a foundation for what we should expect of the state. The Lord has appointed two kingdoms to govern the affairs of men — the church administers the sacraments and the Word of God to direct our Father’s children in godliness, while the state bears the sword against injustice and makes laws for the good of all people, regenerate and unregenerate alike (Rom. 13:1–7). Each authority must do its delegated tasks and not try to usurp the authority of the other. The church does not bear the sword, and the state does not administer church discipline. Nevertheless, on account of the covenant of creation, it is right for the church to expect the state to honor life and bear the sword justly, and it is the responsibility of the church to be a prophetic witness against the state when it fails in these duties.
In this day and age, there is a great temptation for the church in the United States to think that its mission is coextensive with the platform of one or more of the political parties in this country. Yet while we must never be guilty of this error, it does not follow that the church is to be silent on current policies that violate God’s natural law. The state must ever be reminded that it is under the authority of God and the laws He has established in nature.
Passages for Further Study
1 Corinthians 7:1–16