The Promise of Fruitfulness to Covenant-Keeping Man
One of the promises that God holds out to those who love him and keep his covenant is fruitfulness in regard to offspring. In the list of blessings and cursings in Deuteronomy 28, the blessing of fruitfulness is declared for covenant-keepers (v. 11), while the curse of barrenness is avowed to covenant-breakers (v. 19). Psalm 127 says that children are an inheritance from the Lord and are his reward (v. 3), and then declares the man blessed who has his quiver full of them (v. 5). Psalm 128 begins by stating that the man who fears the Lord is blessed, and then goes on to list one of those blessings as being, “thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thy house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table” (v. 3). It is significant to note that both Deuteronomy 28:11 and Psalm 128:3 use the terminology of fruitfulness in reference to hearing many children. When you compare the original creation blessing of fruitfulness to the promised blessing of fruitfulness to covenant-keeping men and women, it is logical to conclude that the covenantal blessing of fruitfulness is a granting of the original creation blessing of fruitfulness to those who keep God’s covenant. And since the original promise of fruitfulness was for the purpose of fulfilling the dominion mandate, it is also reasonable to conclude that the covenantal promise of fruitfulness is also for the purpose of fulfilling the dominion mandate. In granting his people fruitfulness God is enabling them to fulfill the original dominion mandate.
To better understand this connection, let us consider the wider Biblical teaching concerning the dominion mandate. First, the dominion mandate is not given to covenant-breakers, hut only to covenant-keepers.1 The original mandate was given to Adam and Eve before the Fall when they stood in fellowship with God. The dominion mandate was also given to believing Noah and his sons after the flood (Gen. 9:1-3), and as such it was given to covenant-keeping men. The dominion mandate is referred to by David (Ps. 8) as he reflects on the progress of covenant-keeping men to take dominion in the earth, an earth that is filled with men who are in rebellion against God and who, instead of taking dominion for God and developing righteous cultures, are taking dominion for Satan (as his servants) and are developing ungodly cultures. David looks into this world and sees that wickedness abounds and all things are not under the feet of covenant-keeping men. Second, from the New Testament (Heb. 2:6-8) we learn that David’s words are prophetic and point to the only One who can bring all things under the dominion and rule of righteous men, Jesus Christ. The dominion mandate is fulfilled in Jesus Christ and all who are in covenant with him by faith. Christ conquers sin and Satan, restores righteousness to men, and gives them the word of God and the Holy Spirit so that they can fulfill the original dominion mandate of ruling the earth in righteousness as God’s representatives and develop the full potential of the earth for the glory of God the Father. As the Righteous Man, Christ is given dominion over all the earth by the Father, and he in turn gives the authority for dominion to his people (Rev. 2:26-27).
Therefore, since the original dominion mandate still exists; since the dominion mandate can only be fulfilled by covenant-keepers; since the blessing of fruitfulness in regard to fulfilling the dominion mandate is promised to covenant-keepers; then it follows that fruitfulness in procreation is still a vital aspect of the dominion mandate, and the command to God’s people still stands: “be fruitful and multiply.”
Dominion through Fruitfulness
The importance of fruitfulness to the dominion of the covenant people is illustrated in the nation of Israel while in Egypt. Israel went into Egypt as an extended family of 70 souls. Israel came out of Egypt 400 years later as a mighty nation numbering in the millions. The Bible records that God granted great fruitfulness to the Hebrew wives and that the nation grew dramatically (Ex. 2:7). The growth was so spectacular that Pharaoh grew fearful of their numbers and sought to limit their numbers by affliction and by killing the male babies at birth (Ex. 2:9-11). But all of his wicked schemes failed (Ex. 2:12-20). The growth of the Hebrew nation was essential for God’s plan, and that growth could not be frustrated by Pharaoh. According to his covenant promise, the land of Canaan had been given to Israel, hut the land was inhabited by many wicked nations. If Israel was to conquer the land and take possession of it, then Israel must also be a great nation, a numerous people. Israel could take dominion of the land only if the families of Israel were very fruitful and multiplied so that men were available to conquer the land and families were available to fill the land. The dominion mandate for Israel in Canaan necessitated fruitfulness in the families of Israel.
The dominion mandate for the church also calls for fruitfulness in the families of the church. Children are set forth in Scripture as being essential to the continuity of the covenant and the propagation of God’s kingdom, and fruitfulness among the covenant people is still a vital aspect of the dominion mandate. As Christians have large families and train their children in the fear of the Lord, the kingdom of God advances irresistibly. As Christian couples are blessed with fruitfulness, teach their children the law of God, and charge them to subdue all spheres of life to the authority of Christ and his word, the dominion mandate is in the process of being fulfilled. Children are as arrows in the hands of a warrior (Ps 127:4) shot into the midst of the cultural war between those who want to exercise godly dominion and those who promote wickedness; the more arrows discharged into this war, the greater the advance of righteousness.
The significance for dominion through fruitfulness is amplified when one considers’ that the ungodly despise fruitfulness, and, in following their love of death (Pr. 8:36), are preventing conception through contraception and sterilization, and are killing their unborn children through abortion. To get a feel for the impact of fruitfulness among covenant-keepers on the one hand, and the planned barrenness of covenant-breakers on the other, consider the following: If a godly husband and wife have 7 children, and their 7 children each have 7 children, and so on for 5 generations, they will have 19,607 offspring. If an unbelieving couple follows the typical small family size of 2, and their children also have 2 children, and so on for 5 generations, they will only have 60 offspring! Score: covenant-keepers 19,607; covenant-breakers 60 in only 5 generations and only between two families!
This is not to deny the importance of evangelism to the growth of the church and the fulfillment of the dominion mandate;2 it is only to emphasize the great power of fruitfulness for the advance of the kingdom of God.3
One sign (among others) that God is laying the foundation for a resurgence of the Faith in the world is the growing trend of Christians to have large families; this is particularly true of Christian home schoolers. John Perry observes:
Also of note, is the fact that Christian home schoolers tend to have large families. They have the conviction that, “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Ps. 127:3), and this leads them to seek the blessing of God in many children rather than following the cultural norm of one or two offspring. The rediscovery of this biblical truth of the blessing of large families (Ps. 127:3-5; 128:1-6) has tremendous implications in an age when abortion and birth control are the norm for the unregenerate. Large Christian families could in time change the face of the political and social landscape in America.4
The dominion mandate consists of three specific commands: he fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, and subdue the earth. If the dominion mandate is still in force today, and we reconstructionists certainly believe that it is, then all three commands are still in force today. God is still calling his people to be fruitful in regard to offspring because this is vital to the fulfillment of the dominion mandate. If we preach “have dominion” to the church, then we must also preach “be fruitful and multiply” to Christian husbands and wives.5 The two cannot legitimately be separated, for dominion cannot take place without fruitfulness.
Fruitfulness is the result of divine blessing.6 It is a gift from God to us for his glory and our good. Children are God’s reward, and they are intended as a gift of his love. Furthermore, the children of covenant men and women are central to his purpose of granting us dominion over all the earth through the authority and power of Christ our Lord. If we have imbibed the philosophy of the world concerning family size and have deliberately sought to limit our fruitfulness, may we now repent in humility before God and seek his forgiveness and his gift of fruitfulness. If we went astray and limited our family according to the wisdom of the world and our time is past for bearing children, may we also seek God’s forgiveness and then do all we can to help our children and grandchildren succeed where we failed and encourage them seek the blessing of God in having many children.
- The dominion mandate is not primarily agricultural or technological, but ethical, i.e., it calls men to exercise dominion in the earth according to God’s law-word for the honor and glory of God. Man is to rule the earth as God’s representative and develop the resources of the earth in accord with the Creator’s will, i.e., he is to develop the resources of the earth solely in reference to God’s law as summarized in the two great commandments of the law: love of God and love of one’s neighbor. Unregenerate man does not carry out any of his activities out of a love for God, and most often not out of a true love for his neighbor either. It is true that unregenerate man still retains to a degree the image of God, and, by nature, an impulse for dominion. But his reference is purely technological out of a motive for his own power and glory. Therefore, in the limited technological sense, unsaved man has contributed to the dominion mandate; God uses even the wrath of man to praise him. However, the dominion mandate as originally given can be addressed only to righteous men, and that is why it is never given to unregenerate men in the Bible and is ultimately transferred to Jesus Christ.
- Evangelism is absolutely necessary to the dominion mandate in the post-Fall world. In fact, the Great Commission and the dominion mandate are closely related. See Kenneth L. Gentry, The Greatness of the Great Commission (Tyler, TX, 1990), 7-14.
- Perhaps the role of the church (as an institution) and the Christian family in the dominion mandate could be stated this way: the church is called to fruitfulness in regard to regeneration and spiritual children, while the family is called to fruitfulness in reference to generation and physical offspring (of course, children born to Christian parents also need regeneration).
- John F. Perry, “Home Schooling: A Paradigm for Effective Educational Reform in America,” in Explicitly Christian Politics, ed. William O. Einwechter (Pittsburgh, 1997), 209-210.
- For the record, so that it cannot be said that Einwechter does not practice what he preaches, my wife Linda and I have nine children.
- The lack of fruitfulness is not necessarily a curse for a Christian couple, however it might be if they have followed ungodly practices in the past that may affect the ability to have children (e.g., contraception, sterilization, abortion, drug abuse, etc.). God’s promise of fruitfulness to his people is a general promise that applies in most instances. Nevertheless, for his own purposes that often remain hidden from us, God sometimes withholds fruitfulness from faithful covenant-keeping men and women.
- William O. Einwechter
William O. Einwechter serves as a teaching elder at Immanuel Free Reformed Church in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. He is also the vice president of the National Reform Association and the editor of The Christian Statesman. He can be contacted at [email protected].