Genesis 1:28 reads, “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
This verse immediately follows the statement that God has made man and woman in His image. It answers the question, “What are man and woman made to do in God’s world?” What’s the answer? Man and woman are to be fruitful, to multiply, to fill the earth, and to subdue it. That has always been the duty of man and woman under God, and it will continue to be so unto the end of the world.
This establishes both a general principle and a particular mandate for mankind. Generally, men and women, in all their endeavors, are to pursue maximal fruitfulness, according to their respective glories.
Particularly, this establishes a mandate upon mankind for men and women to join, one with another, in fruitful marriage. Much fruit is to be born. Christ’s covenantal union to His bride, the church, is to be displayed. Sin is to be killed, choked out with ever-increasing faith and obedience from husband and wife. And children are to be conceived. They’re to be trained in the culture of the Lord. The fruit of righteousness is to be farmed within the family. And, under the headship of the father, the family is to pursue subduing the world to the Lordship of Christ, ruling it for his honor and pleasure and renown.
What does this principle of fruitfulness and this mandate of fruitfulness mean for the following ethical question: Should Christians use birth control? Is the use of birth control pleasing to God, acceptable, or wrong and displeasing to God?
Birth control willfully makes a fruitful marriage bed barren. It turns what ought to be a garden into a desert. It dissects, like a frog in biology class, a sacred act God has not intended to be so treated. Sex is abundantly for pleasure. Sex is abundantly for intimacy and fellowship. And sex is abundantly for procreation. None of that is to be amphibiously sliced and diced.
To be clear, because Christian marriages are to be fruitful, Christians should not use birth control.
This reading of Genesis 1:28 is consistent with other passages in Scripture.
Malachi 2:13-15 reads,
13 And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.
In these words from the prophet Malachi, it is clear that God seeks offspring, moreover, godly offspring, from the marital union.
We read this in Genesis 38:9-10,
9 Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. 10 But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD; so He took his life also.
Judah’s son, Onan, intentionally rendered unfruitful his sexual intercourse with Tamar. He did so by spilling his seed on the ground. This deed, coitus interruptus, was the method of birth control for almost all of human history. God is so displeased by Onan doing this that He kills him dead.
In using a birth control method, Onan defied God’s purpose for sex by willfully making it fruitless. He called God a liar, by his action labeling as false God’s testimony about children as treasure.
Exodus 23:25-26 Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full lifespan.
Genesis 25:21 Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.
Genesis 33:5 Jacob answered, “They are the children God has graciously given your servant.”
Psalm 127:3-5 Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.
Psalm 128:1-4 Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.
Let’s review the ground covered.
Ethical question: Should Christians use birth control?
Why? Genesis 1:28 establishes a mandate for Christians to have fruitful marriages, a fruitfulness that is directly subverted by birth control. This reading is consistent with such passages as Malachi 2:13-15 and Genesis 38:9-10, and passages throughout Scripture that identify children as a blessing from God to be received with grateful, open arms.
For a superior argument against birth control, read this sermon from David Bayly: http://baylyblog.com/files/old/files/genesis-38-1-11-the-sin-of-onan-revised-version-2-18-11.pdf