The man of God is always under orders because he serves a God whose every word commands. The word of God commands because it is a determining word. Resistance to God’s word is rebellion of the most irresponsible sort; it is a suicidal act certain to fail.
In Genesis 1:3 God said “Let there be light,” and light came into being. The authoritative word is thus also the creative word, in terms of which all has existence and meaning. Our Creator has also commanded our work in the dominion mandate (1:26–28). Adam was given a specific context for his work — Eden, a place separated from the rest of the world by definite boundaries (2:8). There man was given his orders, the positive dominion mandate and his extensive freedom in the garden, and the negative warning regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (2:17). It was in terms of these commands and his duty to follow orders that Adam began his work (2:19–20) and his family life (2:21–25).
The dominion mandate was not a motivational message; as a mandate, it was a command, an order. Man, even in grace, is still always before the God who is his Sovereign and Creator. God commands us by His right, not by our choice. Our choice by the empowering grace of faith is to submit to the legitimacy of His claim and right over us.
As men and women under orders, we are either found faithful or derelict. An oath or vow in Scripture was a way a man formally acknowledged a duty to God. Those were usually specific duties for a specific period of time. In a larger sense, we are always under an oath or vow to God. We are familiar with the courtroom oath — “Do you swear to tell the truth …?” The oath is presented as a requirement, not a voluntary act. If you refuse to take the oath, you are not released from responsibility. On the contrary, you could be punished for contempt of court. A man who refused to take an oath of office could likewise be denied that office. Likewise, Scripture presents man as already under oath, under an obligation to obey the commands of God regardless of his wishes. Grace changes our will to submit to that of God. Theological antinomianism is thus a repudiation of the command of God and a violation of orders.
There are consequences to disobeying orders. To Adam, the violation meant “thou shalt surely die” (2:17). Deuteronomy 28 lists both blessings for obedience to God’s law-word and judgments for disobedience.
The God of Scripture is One who commands and decrees and to whom we are totally accountable. When He comes in judgment, His word will be determinative: “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him” (Ps. 50:3).
To say that the word of God is a command-word, a law-word, and that man is under orders in no way depreciates the love of God. Rather, the sovereignty of God and the fixity of His law-word makes the magnitude of love, grace, and mercy more remarkable. In the authority of God we see the depths of our insolence. In the fixity of His law-word we see the absurdity of our rebellion. In the certainty of His judgment we see the abundance of His grace.
Because God is sovereign, His every word is our command, and we are at every turn under orders. To interpret His redemption as anything other than a recall to obedience and service represents not the liberty of grace but the insolence of Adam’s rebellion.