The more I think about this verse the clearer it is that the instruction to ‘be fruitful’ must be something other than having children. It is God’s first words spoken to His precious creature, mankind, and must be vital for us to understand. Clearly, the second part of this first sentence, the instruction to ‘multiply’ refers to bearing offspring who will expand and continue humanity. But surely God never adds words which are not needed. His words are intentional and important, so it behoves us to consider again what could this instruction to ‘be fruitful’ really mean.
For a plant to be fruitful it must grow true to type and be able to propagate according to the design of its species. In this way it will make other plants of the same kind without distortions. Mankind is made in God’s image and, before the Fall, when God spoke these words to Adam and Eve, they were untainted by sin, and reflected fully the image of God as He intended. Their purpose and design was to reflect the image of God, and to demonstrate in their lives His true, righteous and loving character. Therefore, being fruitful for Adam and Eve was being true to these attributes and spreading them to future generations who would also be true to type.
Sadly, we know the next part of the story and how it all went so badly wrong due to mankind’s disobedience. So, what does ‘be fruitful’ mean for us fallen beings today? Our only example of how it should have been for mankind to grow in a way which was true to the Creator’s intention is shown in the character of Jesus. He is the only sinless human being who ever lived since the Fall. He was indeed ‘fruitful’, He fulfilled all that the Father had designed for Him, so that others after Him would be true to His type. So perhaps we are getting nearer to understanding what it means to truly ‘be fruitful’ We need to become more like Jesus, totally surrendered to His lordship and desiring to reflect His character more fully. But how can we, fallen beings, hope to achieve that, and to do as God asks of us?
The good news is that, when we make Jesus our Lord, we can invite the Holy Spirit to work in us with His life-transforming power. Paul’s letter to the Galatians confirms to us that, in this way, we can indeed bear fruit. The fruit that the Spirit works with us to develop is first and foremost love. This is the character of Jesus, because ‘God is love’, and Jesus and the Father are one. Out of this love flows all the other facets of the fruit of the Spirit; joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Jesus is our model of what being fruitful means.
So, God’s first instruction to us in Genesis 1:28 is not just to bear children, but that we bear the likeness of Jesus. And, Jesus has made a way to for us to fulfil this instruction of being transformed. Whether we are single or married, young or old, all of us are called to reproduce Jesus’ character above all else. Today He calls us all to ‘be fruitful’.
Prayer: Jesus, our wonderful Saviour and Helper, we pray that we will comprehend and take seriously this first instruction given to us; to ‘be fruitful’. We desire that we do increasingly grow to bear the fruit of the perfect design which God intended. We recognise we are fallen beings, but we invite the Holy Spirit to work in us, transforming us so we can be truly fruitful as we increasingly develop the characteristics of Jesus in our lives. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
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