Be Fruitful and Multiply: A Canonical Reading

bill-williams-3302And 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.
— Genesis 1:28 —

Few commands in Scripture are more important than the first one: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.”

In Genesis 1 we learn God made mankind in his image and after his likeness. The purpose of this “imaging” is disputed and multi-faceted (as I’ve described here). However, it is clear that the first command is to be fruitful and multiply, a pregnant command if there ever was one.

In fact, from the placement of this command—the first chapter of the first book in the Bible—we see how programmatic this command is. It is fundamental to being human, and therefore it applies to every one of us. At the same time, from a canonical reading of Scripture we learn how this phrase repeats and develops, so that it bears significance for more than just having babies. In other words, though it never loses this meaning (child-bearing is an implicit part of humanity), the progress of revelation also shows how fruitfulness relates to the Word of God, regeneration, and the Great Commission.

So, in what follows, I will list out many places where this language (“be fruitful and multiply”) occurs, with a few comments along the way.  Then, I will list four ways that reading Genesis 1:28 canonically helps us understand this verse and the whole structure of the Bible. Continue reading

Confronting Falsehood in the Church

falseIt is striking how often Jesus’ apostles warn the church about false teachers and divisive persons. In the Pastoral Epistles Paul calls Titus and Timothy to beware of false teachers in Crete and Ephesus, respectively. But it’s not just these two pastors who are to address falsehood, the entire New Testament calls out the darkness resident in the church. Because of the cosmic conflict between Christ’s church and Satan’s hordes, false doctrine and false living are regular threats to Christ’s kingdom.

Since many churches face such internal and internecine threats, we need to steel our minds with God’s Word so that we might boldly address the darkness around us. Continue reading

Does God Require (Increased) Productivity?

[This meditation summarizes a number of principles from Matt Perman’s excellent book, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done.]

Does God Require (Increased) Productivity?

Made in the image of a Creator, God designed humanity to bear good fruit. In Genesis 1:28, he told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply.” When he put the man in the Garden, he called him to cultivate and keep Eden so that in time the beauty, order, and presence of God’s garden would cover the earth.

Although sin marred mankind’s ability to produce good fruit, there remains a human desire to create, to organize, and to produce. In contrast to the cynicism of Dilbert, work is not a curse; it was and is part of God’s good creation. The trouble is that God’s curse makes work tedious and subject to futility.

Ecclesiastes is a case in point. In that book Solomon teaches us not to put our hope in work. He says that work is a “striving after the wind,” because all laborers will eventually relinquish the produce of their hands. Therefore, the wise man fears the Lord and puts their ultimate hope in God (Eccl 12:13–14).

(Some of) What Scripture Says about Productivity

Still, is that all Scripture says about work? Is it all negative? No, there’s more. Continue reading

A Spiritual Fruit Inventory

Most church-going Christians have participated in a Spiritual Gifts Inventory (SGI).  You know, the one where you sit down to fill out a paper-and-pencil test of things you like, don’t like, are good at, bad at, and don’t know.

Personally, I am not a fan.  It is a fleshly way of discerning the Spirit’s work in your life.  I believe these forms are well-intended and have catapulted many vibrant Christians into active church ministry, but they may have also wrongly directed people away from genuine gifts of the Spirit.   Rather, I have found that the best SGI is found in the honest and loving people of God who are called to judge fellow believers with grace and truth.  Serving in the church is the best Spiritual Gift Inventory.

With that caution in mind, what I offer below, may be just as fleshly and unhelpful…but I hope not.

In preparing for Sunday’s message, I found a Spiritual Fruit Inventory (SFI), that I tweaked and will hand out on Sunday.  Unlike its cousin, the SGI, the SFI, is designed not to lead us down a path to ministry, but down a path to the cross, because it will either show the absolute deficiency of fruit in the life of the believer, in which a true believer has but one response: repentance and gratitude for Christ’s atoning blood.  Or second, it will prompt overwhelming gratitude that the Spirit is at work.  I suspect, as I see in my own life that it is both.  (One other note: it could lead a “believer” to realize that by the conspicuous absence of the Spirit’s fruit that he is not in fact saved; see Matthew 13:1-23).

When I look at Galatians 5:22-23, I see 9 qualities that are present in my life, but oh how anemic is the fruit.  Yet, I take heart that this is the Spirit’s work, not mine.  The only imperative in Galatians regarding the Spirit is to “Walk in the Spirit” (Gal 5:16, 25).  As we do that, fruit will come.  It has to; born again believers bear fruit!  So, as I contemplate the questions below, I go to the cross with sorrow and gladness, and I return to keep walking with the Spirit, praying to the Father to grow in me the life characteristics of Christ–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

Here is the Spiritual Fruit Inventory.  Feel free to use it for your personal devotion or for your corporate ministry.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss


On a scale of 1-5 (bad-good), rate your spiritual fruit.  Then after you have done that, ask a friend, spouse, or family member to do the same.  Compare notes.  Go to God and thank him for the Cross, the Power of the Spirit, and the Promise of Progressive Sanctificaiton.  Continue to walk in the Spirit, by Faith in Christ’s atoning work on Calvary and his sanctifying work in you.

Love: Are you obedient to God’s word?  Do you delight in spending time with God? Does your love for God reflect in love for others?  Would others describe you as loving?  Do you love the unlovable? Or just the likeable?  

Joy: Is your joy based on circumstances?  Have you found joy in the midst of trials?  When you are discouraged, is Scripture your source of joy?  If not, why not?

Peace: Do you know the peace that passes understanding? When alone, are you at peace? When anxious, do you set your mind on God in Christ?  If not, why not?

Patience: Do you accept interruptions and delays with grace and peace? Do you see God’s larger plan at work in your life? How do you view people: as hindrances to be avoided or hurting people to be loved?

Kindness: Would your family call you “kind”?  Are your words refreshing & life-giving? Or sarcastic & mean? Do you seek ways to encourage others?

Goodness: Do you invent ways to help others?  Or do you relish putting others down?  Is your goodness forced or free?  Are you ‘good’ to please others or God?

Faithfulness: Do you keep your word? Do you finish what you start?  Are you a hard worker? Does your church attendance reflect faithfulness?

Gentleness: Are you quick to listen? Slow to speak? Slow to anger? Do your moods swing?  Is your language abrasive or harsh?  Do others confide in you?

Self-control: Are you free from addictions—illegal or legal? Do you have mastery over your thoughts, speech, actions? Do you think before you act?  Are your decisions governed by Scripture? Is your discipline lawful or loving?