This was the command that echoed throughout the book of Genesis, from Adam to Jacob. The word ‘fruitful’ speaks of abundance and reproduction, and the word ‘multiply’ speaks of a growth that is exponential. Multiplication is very different from addition. Addition is growth at one unit at a time where as multiplication is growth on several levels simultaneously.
Though it was an Old Testament mandate to populate the earth with God’s people, I believe it is a principle that is intimated in the New. Especially as it relates to the Church, which is the central address and subject in God’s Word. At least seven NT metaphors of the Church, Jesus is suggesting reproductive growth, with the first three being seeds, a vine and a vineyard (Matt 13:31, John 15).
Certainly in the Book of Acts, the church multiplied in a short period of time; Acts 2:41 – 3,000 added, Acts 4:4 – 5,000 men, Acts 5:14 – Multitudes, Acts 6:7 – A great company of priests, Acts 11:21 – a great number believed.
There are some churches that pit spiritual growth over numerical growth where they may justify their lack of numerical growth by emphasizing their spiritual growth. Others however will justify their spiritual growth by their numbers but this may not necessarily be true. As a Church I believe that numerical and spiritual growth coexist and are hand in hand in what God is requiring. There are exceptions of course in places where Christianity is severely persecuted such as; strict muslim nations or communist regimes where growth is minimal, or at least recorded minimally. Even then, in places like China, though it is rigorously regulated, the underground church has grown rapidly.
Perhaps fruitfulness can be likened to spiritual growth and multiply to numerical, and God wants us to experience both. I believe in this nation, we must aim to grow spiritually and numerically. If this is not happening, we must ask the big questions and begin to explore how we can change this. It’s time for us to grow; in God’s grace and by multiplying ourselves in other people that we can disciple.
This is a blog post from Stanley Harvey, the Senior Pastor of the Pentecostals of Sydney.