Is this idea really found in Scripture?
Embedded since the dawn of time in creation, God’s operating system is multiplication. If it’s alive, it’s meant to multiply. Seed-bearing plants would multiply through generations according to their kind. (Gen. 1:11-12) God blesses the animals of the land, air and sea and commands them to be fruitful and multiply. (Gen. 1:22) And to the people made in his image: “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Gen. 1:28)
The plants and animals were going to multiply, and so would the people who would protect and steward this geometrically expanding creation under God. (Gen. 2:15) Five commands are given to the people in this creation mandate: 1. Be fruitful (increase widely in quantity) 2. Multiply (increase long through generations of your own kind in quality) 3. Fill the earth (increase in acceleration toward a vast high goal) 4. Subdue the earth (stay on target in culture creating toward a vast deep goal) 5. Rule over creation (align with God’s good creative ways supernaturally)
A theology of multiplication from the heart and mind of God runs through the whole of Scripture, Genesis to Revelation (7:9, etc.) Every covenant expands along this line: Adam (Gen. 1:28), Noah (Gen. 8:17; 9:1,7), Abraham (Gen. 12:2; 17:4), Isaac (Gen. 26:4), Jacob (Gen 28:14; 35:11; 48:4), Moses and the Israelites (Ex. 1:7, etc.), David and his eternal house down to the Messiah (2 Sam. 7:16) and Jeremiah among the Jewish exiles (Jer. 23:3; 29:6). Every Gentile Christian today is grafted into this Jewish cultivated olive tree (Romans 11:24), so that the new covenant builds on and fulfills the older covenants as well.
Jesus reveals the Father best to us. (John 14:9; Heb. 1:1-3; Col. 2:9) Jesus walks out a multiplication mindset by ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit to the multitudes, and by training reproducing disciple-makers. As the last Adam, he restores in his new creation work what had been lost or damaged since the fall into sin. His parables of the Kingdom reveal pictures of paradise found on earth that include rapid, accelerating, expansive, exponential growth. His method was multiplying and sending six apostolic pairs (Matthew 10:1-8) who in turn would raise up by the third year of Jesus’ public ministry another six pairs each (sending of the 72 toward Jerusalem and Judea, Luke 10:1-3). This was in response to the urgent need that has been multiplying among the people (“When he saw the crowds he had compassion on them…”, Mt. 9:36) who were like sheep without a shepherd, like a harvest field without workers. Both of those powerful metaphors echo the creation mandate of Genesis for plants and animals: now the people-need is multiplying too, and Jesus wants multiplying disciple-makers to follow his own gospel methods in their words and deeds.
Jesus speaks to us in the parable of the Soils about high receptivity and exponential growth. When the good seed of the gospel (message of the Kingdom) meets highly receptive good soil (human hearts), it creates an explosion of growth: 30, 60 or 100 times what was sown. Jesus feeds the multitudes twice (receptive stomachs) by having food multiply exponentially as it is being distributed to the need in many thousands of people; the baskets never run out of food for the obedient disciples. (Mt. 14:19; Mt. 15:36) This is a God-sized idea; the disciples just can’t come up with it on their own. Jesus predicts his own death as a seed falling to the ground and dying to produce multiplied numbers of new seeds, another God-sized idea. (John 12:24) Ultimately, the post-resurrection Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 lays out the vision of heaven for profound, exponential disciple-making to the ends of the earth among every people group.
The Book of Acts continues the scenes of rapid multiplication of new disciples of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost in Acts 2 explodes from 120 to 3000 in one day, a 25-fold multiplication. Those new disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit and sent to their homes within a short time among “every nation under heaven”, planting new house churches where they lived. If every house church included only ten new people, still the 3000 could have launched 1500 new churches and reached 15,000 people in a matter of months. The hostile Sanhedrin, the full assembly of the 70 ruling elders of Israel, exclaim in Acts 5:28 that the apostles have “filled Jerusalem with your teaching” and the number of disciples was multiplying (Acts 4:4; 6:1,7; 5:14-16). In spite of persecution, the gospel spreads rapidly through Samaria and out to places like Damascus. Antioch catches fire with gospel transformation and sends multiplying apostles to dozens of new cities, such as Ephesus in Acts 19 where a huge number of the 300,000 residents turn to the Lord in a short time, and churches are planted all through the surrounding region. Multiplication looks like the operating system of Jesus and the early church.