On day 4 we’ve hit a milestone. Here’s the first of many King James phrases that have become swear words! “Be fruitful and multiply.”
It’s God’s way of saying… well… let’s stick to the way God says it: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28)
It’s a phrase that actually gives us a window onto:
- the character of God;
- the way of true flourishing; and
- the heart of God’s gospel (i.e. God’s good news for the world)
First let’s think about God’s character.
In Genesis 1:28, God is speaking about how humanity are to fill and rule the earth. And He doesn’t say: “Let there be a human race.” He doesn’t scatter an army of humans over the face of the earth. He starts with a man. He makes for him a woman – out of Adam’s own flesh (we’ll talk about this soon). And from the union of their love will flow the human race.
God is Persons-in-relationship and He creates a people who are persons-in-relationship. We thought about this yesterday when we discussed humanity in the image of God.
And so, as humanity is tasked with filling the earth, how will they do it? Manufacture? An assembly line? Cloning? No.
They will do it like God: in a deeply relational way. The filling of the earth mirrors the creation of the earth. It is loving union. It is face-to-face fellowship which, though intensely intimate, is outward-going in its fruitful creativity. The human family is to be made how the world was made – birthed out of love.
And this gives us a window onto the truly flourishing life.
We often think the way to ‘make things happen’ in life is to grit our teeth and go for it. We picture success in individual terms – perhaps we aspire to be the corporate high-flyer or the peerless performer or the champion athlete. But lasting and true value comes as the organic product of persons-in-relationship. I’m not just talking about ‘making babies’ here. I’m talking about what our verse from Genesis says: “replenishing”, “subduing” and “having dominion” over all the earth. This is not just about baby-making. The lessons of being “fruitful and multiplying” are to be applied in all kinds of realms.
The stuff that really matters in God’s world does not come from the manufacturing model of success – individual efforts, impersonal tasks, laying brick upon brick. What really flourishes and multiplies in this world is the organic fruitfulness model – persons united in love and common purpose.
Filling/blessing/replenishing the earth starts small. It begins with loving that person who God has in your path right now. Not ignoring persons and performing grand tasks. Instead it’s about the pouring of person into person in committed love. This has a multiplying power to bless and replenish the earth.
Finally, “be fruitful and multiply” shows us wonderful gospel truth. Because – oddly enough – Adam is being treated as a plant. Humanity is a crop. But this is crucial, Adam is a plant that will bear fruit ‘according to its kind’.
This has been a big theme in Genesis chapter 1. Day three of creation was all about fruitful plants with seeds and how they will reproduce ‘according to their kind’ (verses 11-12). All of this prepares us for humanity. Adam will be a plant intended to be fruitful. But the fruit borne will be just like that of its forebear.
Adam and Eve (who was herself a ‘cutting’ from Adam!) proved fruitful. And they multiplied. But they multiplied a diseased strain of humanity. Between “Be fruitful and multiply” and the time when “Adam knew Eve” (nudge, nudge) – the crop was compromised. It had been severed from its lifesource in the Lord. As so they bore fruit devoid of the life of God.
Jesus described humanity’s multiplication under these conditions: “Flesh gives birth to flesh” (John 3:6). We’re not born with Spirit-life – life in connection with God. Instead we’re disconnected, devoid of true life. And looking for the life of God among Adam’s descendants is like looking for grapes on thorn-bushes or plucking figs from thistles (Matthew 7:16).
What we need is a new kind of plant. We need a new kind of humanity to get grafted into. And so the Spirit-filled Son becomes flesh and stands on the earth as the true Adam. He is the true humanity. The true Vine. And He invites us into Himself
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth (makes their home) in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit
How will we be fruitful and multiply?
First we come to Christ. We are grafted into Him and become His fruitful, new humanity. We make your home in Christ and as He makes His home in us, we will bear fruit. Fruit according to His kind.
It won’t be the mechanical manufacture of Christian effort. It will be the fruit of loving union with Jesus. As His people – the new humanity – enjoy Him and spend time with Him, there will be an organic, gradual but exponential fruitfulness that will ‘replenish the earth’.