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Gen 4:1-6:8: The Spread of Sin and the Grace of God Print E-mail
Monday, 28 November 2005

We learn from the book of Genesis that sin spreads rapidly.  In fact, after the judgment following the Fall and Adam and Eve being removed from the garden of Eden, sin immediately begins to impact the first family.  We talked last week about the devastation of the Fall and how all of humanity was plunged into sin because of Adam and Eveís decision, in our passage this week we see the reality of such teaching.  It does not take us long to realize that sin is wreaking havoc in humanity and that rebellion against God is running rampant.

Yet, this is not the only theme that we pick up on in the book of Genesis.  In fact, following the Fall, we see two real clear themes, among others, that run through the book of Genesis (and really through the entirety of the Old Testament).  The themes are as follows: the continual spread of sin, or manís rebellion to God, and the grace of God in spite of such terrible rebellion.  In looking at 4:1-6:8, we see these two themes in the lives of the first family leading up to the flood.  Letís identify what we see more specifically.

First, we see the spread of sinful actions (4:1-24).

In only the fourth chapter of the Bible the sin of murder is introduced.  Adam and Eve give birth to Cain and Abel.  The text tells us that Cain worked the fields while Abel tended flocks, both upstanding professions in the sight of the Lord.  Yet, as quickly as these two brothers are introduced, we are shown a problem.  Look at verses 3-5 of chapter 4.  Cainís offering, his act of worship, was not acceptable to the Lord while Abelís offering was.  From the text we see that Cain seemingly did not bring of the firstfruits to God and the writer of Hebrews tells us that Abel was accepted because he brought his offering in faith, insinuating the lack of faith on Cainís part.  Thus, it seems that Cain, much like the Israelites later, wanted to tip his hat to the Lord but was not willing to offer a true offering in faith.  Of course the Lord is never fooled and is not pleased with Cainís offering.  This leads Cain to much jealousy and hatred for his brother, as John tells us in 1 John 3.  This jealousy and anger lead Cain to murder his brother, as we read in verse 8.

Thus, quickly we identify the slippery slope of sin.  One sinful action, if not recognized and repented of, will often lead to another sinful action and so on and so on, till we find ourselves with innocent blood on our hands, lying to God, with remorse only for our punishment and not really for our sin.  We see this in Cainís murder of Abel.

We also see this slippery slope of sinful actions in the line of Cain.  In verse 17 of chapter 4, Moses gives us the descendents of Cain.  We see with these descendents, specifically with Lamech, the escalation of sin on the earth.  The text tells us that Lamech was the first to practice polygamy (see v. 19), an obvious deviation from the Lordís intention for marriage.  The text also reveals the wickedness of Lamech in his poem offered in verses 23-24.  Lamech claims to have killed a man for wounding him and is now bragging about what he has done, claiming to be more evil than Cain.  Even though we see the development of society in this section, through the offspring of Lamech in verses 20-22, there is no escape from the escalation of sin, as we see in chapter 6.

Yet, for all of this, we do see the grace of God in this section.  After the Lord confronts Cain for killing his brother and gives him his sentence, Cain responds in 4:13-15.  This is not Cain repenting, rather, this is Cain trying to get out of his punishment.  Even so, the Lord provides for him protection.  Thus, even for the unrepentant the Lord provides common grace that sustains life.  Of course the Lord knows Cainís heart.  He knows that Cain will build a city and refuse his punishment.  But the Lord is no weak God.  Common grace comes to sustain our lives and to bear witness against us that God has been gracious to us and we are without excuse (see Romans 1-2).  All those who remain in rebellion against God will receive their punishment in the end.  Common grace will sustain us for a season, but in the end, we are desperate for repentance, we are desperate for the special revelation that leads us to Christ.

So, in the midst of the spread of sinís actions we see the grace of God, but there is more.

Second, we see the spread of sinís consequences (4:25-5:32).

In 4:25-26, we are told that the Lord gave to Adam another son by the name of Seth.  In contrast to the line of Cain, Moses now gives us the line of Seth in chapter 5.  We see the contrast most clearly when considering Lamech and Enoch.  As we just saw, Lamech was the evil descendent of Cain who took two wives and bragged about killing a man for wounding him.  Yet, in Sethís line, we are told of the life of Enoch, who walked with the Lord.  Look at 5:21-24.  The text simply tells us that Enoch walked with the Lord for 365 years and he was not.  Like Elijah, the Lord simply took Enoch, a sign of his relationship of obedience to the Lord. 

This is significant because it is unique in the text.  If you look through the text at all the particular descendents of Seth, you see that the text finishes the story of each one with a simple phrase: and he died (v. 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 27, 31).  Moses is pointing out to us the reign of death that had come upon man through the sin of Adam.  The curse of physical death is a reality.  Because of our sin we will one day die physically.  However our story reads here on earth, it will conclude just like those in the line of Seth: and he died.

Yet, there is grace, and hope, in this text as well.  We see that Enoch walked with the Lord and the Lord spared him from physical death.  Now, we cannot push this too far, but we at least see a hint of the possibility of a restored relationship with the Lord.  We will not all, like Enoch and Elijah, be rescued from physical death.  Yet, through faith in Christ, there is hope for a restored relationship with God which leads to eternal life beyond the grave.  Like Enoch, we are called to walk with Lord by placing our faith in Christ and turning from our life of rebellion to God.  And we are given the promise that all those in Christ will escape the second death and being thrown into the lake of fire.  Thus, we see hope in the life of Enoch.

Not only this, but I should point out that the line of Seth is important for the history of Redemption.  Look at Luke 3:23-38.  This is Lukeís genealogy of Jesus.  I will not read it all, but notice verse 38.  Through the line of Seth came Noah, Abraham, David, and ultimately Jesus Christ.  Thus, the line of Seth as given to us in Genesis 5 is pointing us to the One who will come to rescue His people from their sin.  We must not miss the grace of God, even in the midst of the spread of the consequences of sin.

Third, we see the spread of sinís corruption (6:1-8).

In looking at the beginning of chapter 6, we run across a number of controversial issues.  Let me say a word about these at this point.  First, we must try to identify who the sons of God and the daughters of man are in verse 2.  Some have identified the sons of God as those in the line of Seth and the daughters of man as those in the line of Cain.  Some have seen the sons of God as angels and the daughters of man as humans.  Others have seen the sons of God as a group of Kings who had harems and took as their wives any they chose (v. 2).  I must admit that it is hard to know exactly which is best.  Each solution has strengths and weaknesses.  Of course the goal is to try and understand what Moses meant, but the context does not definitively tell us who these groups refer to.  Second, we must try to identify who the Nephilim are in verse 4.  We know that the word refers to giants and it seems that they are the offspring of the sons of God and the daughters of man.  In the end it is hard to identify these groups exactly.  At this point, I can only agree with others I have read in saying that it is possibly some sort of combination of the solutions above.

Yet, even though we cannot identify the groups exactly, what we can do is identify what Moses is trying to show us in these 4 verses.  Moses is telling us that evil is progressing.  Be it through the combination of Seth and Cainís line or through the combination of angels with women or through wicked Kings, the point is that evil is progressing through the ranks of man.

We see this most clearly in verse 5.  Look at that verse with me.  Here is the point of the text: manís heart is corrupt.  Look at the wording.  Manís heart is not just evil, it is only evil.  It is not just only evil, it is only evil continually.  There is no good in man, his thoughts are only evil continually.  This is what we call the doctrine of manís depravity.  Because of the Fall, mankind is depraved from conception.  His heart is bent toward evil continually.  This does not mean that we are as bad as we possibly could be, no, the common grace of the Lord prevents that.  But it does mean that we are wicked through and through.  The Scriptures will go on to tell us that even our righteous deeds are as filthy rags before the Lord.  We are depraved, every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  The text could not be more emphatic.

Because of the wickedness of man, we read of the sorrow of the Lord in verses 6-7.  Look at those with me.  We are given here a description of Godís relationship with man.  We have seen already in the text that God is personal.  Here we are told of Godís sorrow.  Yet, we must be careful.  Moses is describing God using human terms.  Although we see that God is sorrowful, he is not necessarily sorrowful in the same sense that we are often sorrowful.  We must maintain that there is a difference between the creature and the Creator.  God is not surprised by manís depravity.  He is not out of control of manís depravity.  No, God remains all knowing and all powerful and all sovereign.  Yet, at the same time, we see that God is sorrowful.  For us this might not make sense, but we must remember that we are talking about God, whose thoughts and ways are above ours.  We see throughout the text of Scripture things that may seem contradictory about God, but in the end are not.  The greatest example is the cross.  God was both sorrowful and joyful in the cross.  Sorrowful over the death of His Son and joyful over the just redemption of His people.  In Genesis 6 we see already the Lord suffering for the sake of man.  He is sorrowful for manís wickedness and we see the promise of the coming flood.

Yet, even here, the text concludes with a note of grace.  Look at verse 8.  By Godís unmerited grace, we read that Noah found favor with the Lord.  The Lord looks on Noah with favor and has a plan to rescue him from the coming judgment.  Thus, we see Godís grace in Creation, in the Fall, and even in sparing humanity from extinction.  In spite of manís continuing rebellion, God continues to show grace.

This spread of sin will continue.  As we move through the book of Genesis in the weeks to come, we will see manís rebellion over and over again.  Even today, we look around and continue to see the outworking of the Fall in the hearts of men.  Humanity is wicked.  The thoughts of menís hearts are only evil continually.  Our depravity is obvious.  We should not be surprised by the depravity of man that we see all around us.

Yet, the Bible is not just a book about the depravity of man.  Yes, that is an important theme, but it is not the central theme.  The central theme is the story of Godís grace triumphing over the sin of man.  God has created us for His glory and He redeems us for His glory, so that in the end all glory belongs to Him.  All of this is pointing to Christ.  How can God continue to forgive men and remain just?  On what basis can God forgive men?  When will Godís wrath be poured out on the sins of men?  It is these questions and more that are only answered in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Based on His work, the Father can forgive the sins of men.  The wrath of God has been poured out on Christ for all those who repent of their sins and believe in Him.  For all those who refuse, they will face the wrath of God on the day of judgment.  All of this points us to the overwhelming grace of our God.  All of these smaller pictures of Godís grace point us to the ultimate revelation, namely the grace of God at the cross.  The message of the cross should ever be in our hearts and on our lips because it is the triumph of Godís grace over our sin.  We must believe the Bible on two accounts this morning: first, the account of manís depravity and second the account of Godís grace.  This is the message of good news that we must believe and that we must take to a lost and dying world.  Amen. 

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 February 2006 )

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