Part 5 “Multiply and Fill the Earth: The Ordinary Sense”
Once someone crosses the thresh-hold of adulthood as a generous, self-sacrificial, and stable person, the ordinary means of multiplying and filling the earth is first marriage and then children. I am not going to say much about the order now as it will be elaborated on extensively in a later group of blogs about the “Stations of Life” that will occur in this series on “Discipleship and Christian Discipline.” But I do want to emphasize that “first marriage and then children” is the proper order. Yes, there is grace and forgiveness from God for breaking this order. We do not live in a perfectly moral world. Christians themselves are being progressively sanctified throughout this life, and so they are not perfectly moral people. But grace and forgiveness do not erase consequence. Violations of created order come with consequences, often massive ones that remain with us most or all of our lives. The order of “multiplying and filling the earth” is particularly susceptible to creating life-long personal and financial consequences. But more on that later.
The ordinary sense of fulfilling the Creation Mandate of “multiplying and filling the earth” is marriage and family. Adam and Eve were to remain in the Garden of Eden. But one of their key tasks was to have children and to expand the Garden’s size until the earth was as “full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:9) Glorifying God is mimicking God, doing work as He has done it, thinking His thoughts after Him. The Garden was the pattern, and the earth was given to humans mostly unordered so that we could “subdue it” (as we will see) as God subdued the Garden when He created it. Through work, organization, creativity, and a love of truth and beauty man is to the expand his “dominion” and “glorify” God. Family is the first place children should observe fruitful people in a fruitful community. It is also the best place to learn about the subduing of the earth that has already been done my humans before them. We call the first marriage, and we call the second education.
Marriage and families should be formed by two fruitful people. Community calls for massive amounts of public generosity and self-sacrifice. But both those can be seen and celebrated by others in their public capacity, and so they have a reward attached to them. Marriage, the source and building block of all culture and community require private generosity and self-sacrifice, and so they go largely unseen. It is the children of the virtuous woman that rise up and call her blessed. It is possible (highly probably in our society) for her to be thought of as an undesirable moral prude by her neighbors. Men and women of biblical integrity are not likely to move easily through a corporate business structure due to their unwillingness to live an unauthentic and pragmatic existence. Doing good often comes with a price hear on the earth.
1 Peter 3:13-17
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
It is the private nature of being fruitful in your marriage and family that makes it such a compelling case for leadership in the Kingdom of God. How can a man rule or exercise “dominion” in the Church, the household of God, if he has not properly done it in his own household?
1 Timothy 3:1-5
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer[a] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,[b] sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?
And so we see marriage and family become proving grounds for our fruitfulness. The foundry where the metal is heated and the dross removed. The forge where our fruitfulness is further hammered out by the difficult blows of endurance and repentance. The most authentic circumstances of our life are found there, and so, generally speaking, both our real virtue and our real capacity for spiritual leadership are found there as well.
I say “generally” speaking many times throughout this essay. Marriage and children are the “general” means by which fruitful expansion in the earth takes place, but they are not the only means. The American Church has given in to a commercialized and consumer-driven culture. It hires consultants and builds its “advertising” campaigns” around “youth and children’s ministries”, mainly in the suburbs, effectively targeting families and leaving the infertile and single out to dry. We have done a terrible, terrible job discussing the categories of singleness, and encouraging some to give their lives completely and fully to God as Jesus did, as Paul did, as John the Baptist did, and as many in the early church did as well, following the pattern of chosen singleness those first New Covenant examples. In our next blog or two, we will be discussing “multiplying and filling the earth” not in its ordinary sense, but in its extraordinary one.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 3
Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 4