(28) Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
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This verse contains the first words God spoke to mankind. The Hebrew word translated as “blessed” can also at times signify a curse. Here, without a doubt, it signifies that God's conferring of good on the newly created couple is to be shared by their descendants.
This divine act not only confers dominion over what God created, but it also establishes that, even as God is the Creator and Giver of His wonderful creation at that moment, He is also the Giver of its continued blessings through time to Adam and Eve's descendants. In His first oral communication to them—an authoritative command to spread over the earth and enjoy His creation's benefits—He desires to establish in their minds that everything before them was a gift from Him to prepare them to face life.
The physical creation of earth, which culminated in the creation of Adam and Eve, parallels the spiritual creation this same God is undertaking in us. Even as God supplied all that Adam and Eve needed for life, so is He supplying all that we need for our spiritual creation. The apostle Paul confirms this in Philippians 4:19, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Our responsibility is to hold fast to His promises in faith.
We have been given much, but much more is required of us than is required of the unconverted because God has given us gifts not given to them. This principle of God's judgment appears in Luke 12:47-48:
And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.
The overriding thought in the foreground of this first and universal covenant is that the entire creation—including us and the spiritual life given us, but in context, especially earth and what it contains—is a gift from God to aid us in making our way through the physical life He has provided. This is a reality: We live and have being, and we think, plan, build, and look to the future all because of what God has done. This reality must be foundational in our relationship with Him because it provides solid footing for the humility necessary to make it work. Because He is the Giver of all good things, our thinking about ourselves in relation to Him must begin here.
In the context of Genesis 1, these blessings, these gifts, are somewhat similar to the gifts of the Spirit listed in I Corinthians 12. A dissimilarity, though, is that I Corinthians 12:11says, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He will.” Here, God supplies gifts for functions He assigns within the church rather than for all of life. But an important similarity that we must live by is that God is still gifting to meet the needs of those He is creating, but in this case the gifts are spiritual rather than physical.
The following truth is not stated in Genesis 1-3, but it is a conclusion gathered from this covenant's entire context combined with understanding gathered elsewhere in God's Word: All of God's gifts are aspects of His grace given to aid us in succeeding within His purpose.
The emphasis should be on His purpose. For example the entire creation is a gift. Whether one is converted or unconverted, it stands as a major teaching device, and receiving it bears responsibilities. Serious and honest consideration of it should lead to answering many questions about our place in a relationship with God, and to realizing some of our responsibilities. This is why Paul declares mankind “without excuse.” The fulfillment of these responsibilities lies in the uses we make of the gifts God has given.
— John W. Ritenbaugh