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Our Vocations: Blessings from God

November 19, 2023

Teacher: Daniel Baker
Scripture: Genesis 1:28; 2:4–25

Our Vocations: Blessings from God
Genesis 1:28; 2:4–25 – Right from the Start: Genesis – Daniel J. Baker – Nov 19, 2023


“If you’re able, please stand...” A reading of Genesis Genesis 2:4–8. “...Thanks be to God.”

You never know what your quiet faithfulness will do. Os Guinness’ The Call tells the story of Jane D’Esterre.[1]

She was a young mother of 2, and her husband was recently killed in a duel in England. The year was 1815.

She was beautiful, talented, smart, but filled with despair and saw no hope in her future. She stood on the banks of a river about to throw herself in to drown herself.

Yet, before she did she looked up.

Saw a young plowman about her age who was working his fields.

“Meticulous, absorbed, skilled, he displayed such a pride in his work that the newly turned furrows looked as finely executed as the paint strokes on an artist’s canvas.”[2]

Seeing the care he brought to his work stopped her in her tracks. She decided that day not to drown herself. The man’s faithfulness to his vocation changed everything for the woman.

Our vocations matter. What we do and why we do it matters.

It’s easy to misunderstand what our true callings are and feel very faithful even while we’re being unfaithful.

Our series in Genesis: Right from the Start. Extended time in the opening chapters because they’re so formational. What we see are key truths right at “THE START” of our Bibles. And also we’re seeing that things were RIGHT from the start. In a couple weeks we’ll read about when all things went horribly wrong.

Sermon: Our vocations are blessings from God: (1) The Context: Genesis 1 and 2; (2) Our Vocations as Callings by God; (3) Our Vocation of the Cultural Mandate; and then (4) Our Vocations as Men and Women.


I. The Context: Genesis 1 and 2

With this verse we’re into a new part of the book. We can tell because of that opening phrase in 2:4, “These are the generations of...”

This is called the toledot formula, because the word for “generations” is the Hebrew toledot. The phrase is a section divider. Every time we see it we get a narrative about a new key figure or we get a key genealogy.

“These are the generations of...” Adam (5:1), Noah (6:9), “the sons of Noah” (10:1); “Shem” the son of Noah (11:10); “Terah” the father of Abraham (11:27); Ishmael, Abraham’s son (25:12), Isaac (25:19); Esau (36:1, 9), Jacob (37:2).

This first toledot is a record of “the heavens and the earth when they were created” (2:4). This tells us that the seven days of creation (1:1–2:3) are a kind of Prologue. Set off from the rest of Genesis like an Introduction that gives us KEY FACTS YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND TO MAKE SENSE OF THE REST OF GENESIS—AND THE WHOLE BIBLE!

Where the Prologue had a kind of full stop on the 7th day with the Sabbath of God, this next look at “the heavens and the earth when they were created” will continue right on till Genesis 50. Now the story of story of redemption really gets underway.

2:5 – The language at first glance is surprising. If we read this verse too fast we’ll think that what’s being said is that there was no vegetation anywhere on earth until man was created. But that’s not actually what it says.

Let’s look at it:

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground. (Gen 2:5)

The verse speaks of bushes and small plants, and in particular bushes of the field and small plants of the field. Field here doesn’t just mean “the earth” but “fields” like a farmer would cultivate.

It’s the same word as used in Genesis 47:20 when the Egyptian farmers “sold their fields” to Pharoah because of the famine.

In other words, the verse is saying that the fields which Adam would cultivate had not been planted yet. Because Adam the farmer/gardener hadn’t been “formed” yet. He is “formed” in Genesis 2:7–8.

What we have in the rest of Genesis 2 is not a description of what’s happening throughout the whole earth but what’s happening in Eden, in one particular part of Eden.

In verse 8 we read that “the LORD God (Yahweh Elohim) planted a garden in Eden, in the east.”

It’s this “garden” that is the focus of the passage. So, on our Google map, Genesis 1 is zooming out to take in the whole earth. Continents and oceans and plants and animals are all created. We can even see the sun, moon, and stars in this zoomed out picture.

But in Genesis 2 we’ve zoomed in A LOT. We’re looking at just one spot of land on the whole earth. Plants exist and even fruit trees—but not the kind of plants that are the result of gardening and farming. Those don’t exist yet becaue Adam the Farmer/Gardener hasn’t been formed yet.

So, maybe when God “planted the garden,” these plants came to be (Gen 2:8). At the very least, they weren’t in this plot of land yet.

God makes the Gardener (Gen 2:7) and then he makes the Garden (Gen 2:8) and places his chosen Gardener in it. This Garden will be Adam’s special responsibility. He was placed there to “work it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). Then God will give this Gardener a perfect “Helper Fit for Him,” the woman Eve (Gen 2:18).

This Garden was a special place. When the Old Testament was translated into Greek in the 2nd century BC, the word they used to translate “garden” was paradeisos, the word for Paradise.[3] That’s why we so often speak of the Garden of Eden as a Paradise. The word Jesus uses in Luke 23:43 when he talks to the thief on the cross and says, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

So just to summarize what I’ve said here.

Genesis 1 gives us the wide-angle view. Genesis 2 gives us the narrow view. Genesis 1 tells us that plants and trees have been made. But Genesis 2 tells us that the plants and shrubs that are the work of farmers and gardeners hasn’t been made yet. Because Adam the farmer/gardener hadn’t been “formed” yet.

One clue that it’s the same history but with a different emphasis is that the names for God are different. In Genesis 1 the name for God used in almost every single verse of the chapter is Elohim, “God.” It’s a name that speaks of God as the Sovereign Creator.

In Genesis 2 the name for God is always “LORD God,” Yahweh Elohim. It combines the mighty Elohim with the special name of God that God used when he made a covenant with Israel, Yahweh.

“LORD God” is used 19 times in Genesis 2–3. Then not again until Exodus 9:30. It’s Moses emphasizing something, that in Genesis 2–3 we’re getting the more relational, covenantal side of God.

Andreas Köstenberger and Gregory Goswell:

If Genesis 1 focuses on God in his majestic sovereignty, in Genesis 2 the intimacy of God’s care comes to the fore, for the Lord God ‘fashioned’ (our translation) the man and ‘planted’ a garden (2:7, 8). The biblical presentation would be impoverished without portraits of God as both transcendent and immanent.
Andreas Köstenberger and Gregory Goswell, Biblical Theology[4]

II. Our Vocations as Callings By God

We often treat VOCATION and OCCUPATION as if they’re synonymous—as if they both mean “the thing you do for money.” That might make some of you think you don’t have a vocation. The two words have really, really important differences.

An occupation IS the thing you do for money, the thing that occupies you for most of every work day.

But the word “vocation” is from the Latin vocare, which means “to call.” A “vocation” is a “calling.”

The most important calling you have is when God called you to himself:

 “The promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:39)

Do you hear that—“the Lord our God calls to himself”?

This is why Paul can use soldier language to describe our lives:

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. (2 Tim 2:3–4)

Before we get to WHAT am I called to, I need to know WHO I am called to.

  • You’re called to a Person.
  • You’re called to the most glorious and infinite Person.
  • That calling defines you more than anything else.

Os Guinness:

Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction lived out as a response to his summons and service.
Os Guinness, The Call[5]

It doesn’t take long to realize that this call to God himself opens up into a whole set of callings.

  • Like sunlight passing through a prism, separates into many colors
  • My singular call to God changes ALL aspects of my life.
  • Your one CALL to God opens up to many CALLINGS.
  • What am I called to?

Once I grasp WHO I’m called to I’m ready to think about WHAT I’m called to.

Since “calling” means “vocation,” these are also my vocations

We don’t have ONE vocation but many.

My callings:

  • A Christian serving my God
  • A Churchman
  • A Husband
  • A Father
  • A Son
  • A Pastor
  • A Citizen
  • Other “occasional” callings: Board member of my son’s basketball team, cross country coach, greeter at church on Sundays, member of the Ruhl home group

You are called!

You may reply: But how if I am not called, what shall I do then? Answer: How is it possible that you are not called? You have always been in some state or station; you have always been a husband or wife, or boy or girl, or servant.

Picture before you the humblest estate. Are you a husband, and you think you have not enough to do in that sphere to govern your wife, children, domestics, and property so that all may be obedient to God and you do no one any harm?

Yea, if you had five heads and ten hands, even then you would be too weak for your task, so that you would never dare to think of making a pilgrimage or doing any kind of saintly work….

See, as now no one is without some commission and calling, so no one is without some kind of work, if he desires to do what is right. Everyone therefore is to take heed to continue in his calling, look to himself, faithfully do what is commanded him, and serve God and keep his commandments; then he will have so much to do that all time will be too short, all places too cramped, all resources of help too weak.
Martin Luther, sermon on John 21:19-24

III. Our Vocation of the Cultural Mandate

As we think about our MANY vocations, our MANY callings, we want to go back to our FIRST calling. This is spoken in Genesis 1.

Right after God says he will make man “male and female” in the image of God (Gen 1:26–27), he CALLS them, he COMMISSIONS them.

This is often called “the cultural mandate” or “the creation mandate.” It’s in Genesis 1:28:

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:28)

Together they were to imitate God in his creation and dominion through procreation and dominion.

God’s word in Genesis 1:28 contains a mountain of truth: Contained here is marriage and parenting (“be fruitful and multiply”). A key calling—vocation—for Adam and Eve was to have children.

They started as TWO, but God’s vision for them was not to remain TWO. They were to “be fruitful and multiply.”

And we see this unfold in the book of Genesis. At the end of chapter one there are exactly TWO people on earth. By the end there are nations, and God has selected one people out of all these nations to be the way he accomplishes his work of redemption.

Then there’s the vision for EXPANSION AND DEVELOPMENT. “Fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion.”

This is a sweeping idea. The couple starts in a Garden in Eden, one small plot of land. But the vision is a global one. The vision is for people to cover the earth and bring the earth into a state of order and development.

This means more than farming. As Anthony Hoekema says, it also means “to develop a God-glorifying culture” (Created in God’s Image, 14).

To English speakers this sounds jarring. How can you get “culture” out of these words in Genesis 1:28? And then there’s the modern allergic reaction to exporting culture—isn’t that paternalistic to think that my culture needs to influence another person’s culture?

A little word study helps here. “Culture” comes from the same Latin root as “cultivate.” Both come from a Latin word colore which means “to tend, guard; till, cultivate.”[6]

At the heart “culture” is a farming idea, where you’re taking unproductive soil and you’re working that soil to make it productive things. Before it was a field of grass and shrubs—after I cultivate it, it’s wheat and corn and ornamental bushes.

“Culture” does that. “Culture” is taking our natural chaos and blandness and adding order and beauty and interest, just like a farmer or gardener.

The cultural mandate starts with a simple agrarian idea, but it doesn’t end there. It expands to include making music and art and architecture and business and innovation and technological advances and medicine.

For a couple years I was a board member for the Sabres basketball team. As we changed bylaws and policies, it was a small-scale “subdue, and have dominion.”

Tim Keller:

[Genesis 1:28] has been called “the cultural mandate….It means civilization, not just procreation. We get the sense God does not want merely more individuals of the human species; he also wants the world to be filled with a human society….We are called to “rule” the rest of creation and even to “subdue” it….God owns the world, but he has put it under our care to cultivate it….We are to be gardeners….That is the pattern for all work. It is creative and assertive. It is rearranging the raw material of God’s creation in such a way that it helps the world in general, and people in particular, thrive and flourish.
Tim Keller, Every Good Endeavor[7]

But we’re Christians, so we’re not neutral about all advances and all so-called “cultural” elements. As the Bible marches on, we know that we are called to develop a distinctly CHRISTIAN CULTURE within our homes and churches and communities as much as we can.

That’s where the Great Commission fits in:

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20)

In the Garden we were told to “be fruitful and multiply.” In the Great Commission you can hear that echoed in “Go therefore and make disciples.”

In the Garden we were told “subdue” and “have dominion” over the earth. In the Great Commission we “baptize” and “teach them to observe all that I have commanded you.” We’re subduing our sinful selves and taking dominion over souls and minds opposed to God and his Word.

IV. Our Vocations as Men and Women 

In Genesis 2–3 we see another side of our VOCATIONS. We see our VOCATIONS as men and women.

The man is made from dust (Gen 2:7) and then “placed in the garden” (Gen 2:8) “to work it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). “Work it and keep it” has a basic meaning of doing the work of caring for the Garden. Adam is uniquely connected to the ground.

That’s why at the fall his CALLING is uniquely impacted by his curse:

Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. (Gen 3:17b-18)

The woman is made from the man (Gen 2:21) and made as Adam’s “helper fit for him” (Gen 2:18). She is later called “the mother of all living” (Gen 3:20) because from her will come all people.

That’s why at the fall her CALLING is also impacted by her curse:

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” (Gen 3:16)

Just as Adam’s VOCATION/CALLING was affected by the fall, so was hers.

You can see here that in a general sense a man is called to a WHAT where a woman is called to a WHO.

It’s often the case when a man and woman do the same job, they tend to approach it differently. The man is more likely to lose himself in the task itself. The woman is more likely to be aware of all the social connections involved in the task.

Even if they’re both accountants and both equally skilled in the core aspects of the job, they’ll often approach differently. The man’s tendency likely is to be more aware of the numbers. The woman’s tendency is not to miss how those numbers affect lives or how the workers in the office are doing.

These are general statements, of course. We can always find individual exceptions. But the point here is that our calling as men and women, our vocations as men and women, have differences.


Our vocations are blessings from God.

  • We don’t have ONE vocation but MANY. This helps us answer questions like, “Am I working too much or too little?” Sometimes we can look at our other vocations to answer that: How are we doing in the other vocations that we have?
  • The cultural mandate: This is a summons to invest ourselves, to create, to innovate.

Os Guinness story. The rest of the story…

She was captivated. Eventually rebuked herself for her self-pity. She would go on to become a Christian and marry Captain John Grattan Guinness, the great-great-grandfather of Os Guinness himself.

As Guinness reflects on the event with the plowman he says she was “saved from suicide and reinvigorated for life by the sight of work well done" (The Call, 196).

Where do we start?

Start by doing your job well. Dorothy Sayers:

Work….should…be thought of as a creative activity undertaken for the love of the work itself; and…man, made in God’s image, should make things, as God makes them, for the sake of doing well a thing that is well worth doing….The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.
Dorothy Sayers, “Why Work?”[11]

But the greatest of all workers was not Adam. It was Christ. He was the one and only one who DID ALL THAT HE WAS SENT TO DO.

He alone fulfilled his CALLING from God in every detail.

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” (John 4:34)

And ultimately that work would involve dying on a cross for sinners like you and me. Sinners who reject our vocations—our callings from God—and pursue our own interests.

But because Christ did the work entrusted to him, we can have forgiveness of sins. You’ll never be saved by YOUR works. But you can be saved by HIS.

Believe in Jesus and you’ll be saved. You’ll be delivered from sin’s filth and penalty. You’ll experience new power to obey God and pursue the callings he has given to you.

You’ll be able to obey his word to you: So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor 10:31)



[1] Os Guinness, The Call (W Publishing, 2018), 246.

[2] Os Guiness, The Call.

[3] It’s used 14x in Genesis and always referring to the Garden in Eden, 3x in the NT (Luke 23:43; 2 Cor 12:4; Rev 2:7), and then 13x in the other OT books. In other words, not often. This elevates the occurrences in Genesis 2–3.

[4] Andreas J. Köstenberger and Gregory Goswell, Biblical Theology: A Canonical, Thematic, & Ethical Approach (Wheaton: Crossway, 2023), 116.

[5] Os Guiness, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life (W Publishing, 1998), 29.

[6] See

[7] Keller, Every Good Endeavor, 43, 44, 46.

[8] Keller, Every Good Endeavor, 37.

[9] Keller, Every Good Endeavor, 20, 21.

[10] Guinness, The Call, 196.

[11] Dorothy Sayers, “Why Work?”, Letters to a Diminished Church: Passionate Arguments for the Relevance of Christian Doctrine (W Publishing, 2004), 118, 132.

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