We’re are going to do the sermon backward today. We’e already seen the application of the sermon before the sermon is given. The topic today, as we are going through the scripture asking what it means to be human, is that we are Made to Multiply.
Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 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.”
Making Babies Requires the Complementary Union of Men and Women
Much ink has been spilled debating whether this is a command or a blessing. It’s easy to miss the forest for the trees if we do. Whether or not this is a true command, it is does set in front of humanity the goodness of procreation, the goodness of childbearing, and the goodness of sexual binary required to multiply and fill the earth. To experience the blessedness aimed for in this words, man and woman must come together as woman and man in complementary union. Both male and female are initially each created in the image of God, but to fill the earth with more image-bearers, male image-bearers and female image-bearers must bond to one another. nether can do this work and experience this blessing alone.
We see this more explicitly illustrated for us in Genesis 2. Here, man is created first, and yet it is said of him something that is not said of anything else in creation up to that point: namely in verse 18, that it is not good, that the man should be alone. Adam can not experience the blessed multiplication for which his race was made by himself. And so God makes a woman from his side, to be a “helper fit for him”. God brings the woman to the man, and he takes her as his bride, and the two become one flesh, naked and unashamed. It is through this union that the blessed multiplication is experienced, and babies - new image-bearers of God are born. Every living human being is a testimony to the goodness of this sexual binary, this complementary union. The goodness of man is affirmed; the goodness of woman is affirmed; and the goodness of the union is affirmed. By extension, the goodness of motherhood is affirmed; the goodness of fatherhood is affirmed; and the goodness of reproduction is affirmed.
Now these things should almost go without saying, as they are affirmed not only by Scripture, not only by basic grade 6 biology, not only by every society of human creation up until recently. But we must state them clearly and carefully in our day, as we have entered into a brave new world in which the engendered binary of human experience is considered accidental or even detrimental to human experience. Some, and this has come into our public education system, wish to sever entirely the connection between our experience of gender and the reality of our biological sex. Now, before I respond to this I want to note that they make some good points.
- On account of the corruption of the natural world brought on by the fall, there are some intersex people that do not fit neatly into a biological binary. Generally speaking, these people may encounter difficulty in organizing their personhood along the lines of a sexual binary that ambiguously applies to them. We believe that these people should be shown great care and love as they work out how to organize their lives in relation to their gender.
- Some have pointed out that some of the ways in which we experience gender is somewhat arbitrary across cultural lines and therefore seems to indicate that some experiences of gender reflect social structures more than intrinsic realities. I agree that we need to be very careful that we don’t reduce gender to its cultural representations. If a girl likes rough sports or a boy is demure and artistic, they are no less of a woman or of a man for it.
Thus I think we as Christians could do better to have a bit more nuanced understanding of gender. However, it seems to me that by God’s design the link between biology and gender is inescapable. I’ve already stated that it’s inescapable in our own birth - every single human being is the product of the complementary reproductive activity of a man and a woman. Second, to suggest that biology is in some way trivial or disconnected to our experience as men and women is an insult to every woman; as nearly the whole of a woman’s life, at least from puberty to menopause and beyond, is tied to the hormonal cycle of menstruation and ovulation. This reality shapes a woman emotionally, socially, sexually and hormonally, in ways very different from a man. To deny this reality of woman’s experience dishonours womanhood.
This we see very early on in the scriptures, statements that were radical in the ancient world regarding the fundamental equality of women and men, and statements that are radical in our modern world regarding the irrepressibility of the gender binary.
Making Babies is an Act of Faith in the Face of Sin and its Devastation (X2)
Second, humanity is made to multiply in the face of sin and its devastation. One of the fears I hear at times (and to be honest, have thought myself) is how can I bring a child into this world of sin and devastation? It may be all fine and good to give this word to Adam and Eve in the garden, a paradise of safety and bliss, but we don’t live in that world.
If anyone had lived through the devastation of sin in his generation it would be Noah and his family. Yet after the flood, upon disembarking the ark, God speaks the same words to them:
Genesis 9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth … Genesis 9:7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”
The bringing forth of children into the fallen world is quite simply, an act of faith. We don’t have children because we believe that they will all be perfect angels that will bring nothing but joy to us. Every new parent comes to the point that they understand that the reason God made babies so cute is so we don’t murder them. When God had Eve that “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” He was not merely speaking of the physical pain of labor, He was speaking on the painful effects of sin and corruption that will touch every part of the bearing up of children. Some experience this pain before the child is even born, the pain of miscarriage. Some infants are stillborn. Some born with birth defects. Some become teenagers. Yet God doesn’t call us to stations in life because they are easy. The pain he prophesied over Eve would also contain the promise of redemption, as literally the hope of the Messiah to come that would reverse the curse would be found in the children she bore. Mary, the mother of our Lord, was told the very same thing, when she was told that her son Jesus was appointed for the fall and the rise of many in Israel and that a sword would pierce her own soul too. She experienced that pain when she watched her son suffer on the cross. God does not promise that the act of being fruitful and multiplying will be pain-free. That is why having babies is literally an act of faith in the face of sin and its devastation. It is trusting in God and His plan and that he can bring redemption out of our pain.
Like Noah, the Jewish exiles in Jeremiah were told to multiply in the aftermath of judgement, in the face of sin and its devastation. The exiles could have given up on the world around them, mourned the devastation and chosen not to bring babies into the cruel world in which they found themselves. Yet God encouraged the exiles not to despair of this world or live as if they had one foot out of the door.
Jeremiah 29:4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
Again, having babies is literally an act of faith in the face of sin and its devastation. It is a defiance of all that is safe and comfortable, in this world that values convenience and independence. It is a act of trust in a God who can bring joy and redemption out of pain. The world will tell you kids are a nuisance, God says they are a blessing. The world will tell you they will derail you career, the Word says that bringing up kids is our first and primary vocation. The world would say that there is too much darkness and pain to bring a child into, God sent His own son into our darkness and pain to redeem it.
Now a quick word to the singles and the childless. For you might be thinking, what about us? There is always a risk in speaking about the blessedness of childbearing that we cast a shadow over those who are childless. To you I’d say three things:
God has a special promise for the childless: While the Old Testament particularly set forth the blessedness of childbearing, God speaks a special word to those unable to bear children in Isaiah 56:3: Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” 4 For thus says the LORD: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, 5 I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”
God has honoured singleness in the person of his Son: Jesus was single and childless. To say that making babies is central to our humanity is not to say that every human will make babies. Jesus, the perfect human, did not make babies. Third, and this gets it’s own point:
The Church is Commissioned to Bear New Children for God
Some may note that there is no specific explicit statement in the New Testament that we make babies. but there is a greater application of the statement, that includes not only men and women, but all who are apart of God’s church. For in the preaching of the gospel, Christ the husband, and the church, his bride, go into all the world, making disciples of all nations. When the church comes together with her husband, Christ, and preach the name of Christ, to all who receive Him, to those who believe in His name, He give the right to become Children of God. This includes the raising of the next generation of babies in the church, but extends beyond those babies to the nations.