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The Godly Line

Sin, Death, and Salvation (The Effects of Sin in the World)

Series: Genesis: The Foundations of the Faith

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on Aug 30, 1998

Genesis 5:1-32

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If you have your Bibles, I'd invite you to turn with me to Genesis 5. We have seen God's glorious work of creation recounted in Genesis 1. We've seen His special favor toward mankind recounted in Genesis 2. We've come to the saddest moment in human history in Genesis 3. The doctrinal point of that passage, of course, is to show in the words of the Apostle Paul that sin came into the world through one man and thus death through sin. And, of course with sin came misery, not divinity, as Satan had promised. Then when we looked at Genesis 4 we saw in the first half of that chapter, in verses 1 through 16, the sad story of the consequences of sin in Adam's family, and especially in the horrible story of the murder of Abel by his older brother, Cain. That chapter reveals to us the consequences of sin and the reality of death. And then finally as we looked at the last half of that chapter, Genesis 4:16-26, we saw again the unfolding of the original, human civilization with all its potential for creativity and for evil. And so in all the cultural advances and accomplishments recorded there in the line of Cain, there was not one shred of hope. Only at the very end of Genesis 4, and the birth of the covenant child, Seth, do we see an offer of hope and of reassurance in the line of the woman. By the way you will remember, if you can remember back that many weeks, three weeks, that in Genesis 4:26 we saw the spiritual impact of the line of Seth. In that time, men began to call out to the name of the Lord. This records the gathering for corporate worship of the people of God, and specifically we noted that that was the first usage of the divine name the Lord, the covenant name of the Lord God, which we find in scriptures.

So tonight we come to Genesis 5, verses 1 through 32. Here, Moses recounts for us the original creation, and then he tells us about the effects of sin in the human race and records for us the godly line all the way from Seth to Noah. So let's hear God's holy word in Genesis 5.

Genesis 5:1-32

O Lord and our God, when we come to passages such as this where You recount the genealogies of Your people, it is often easy for us to overlook the truths which they contain. As we seek to plumb the depths of Your word and find in it great morsels for our spiritual nourishment, we pray that You would assist us by the spirit. Give us the spirit of attentiveness. Give us the spirit of expectancy as we come to this, Your holy word; Your word which is meant for the building up of Your people. And we pray that even as we feast upon the word as Your people, that Your word would call those who know not Christ unto salvation. We ask it in Jesus' name, Amen.

This chapter begins with the phrase, "This is the book of the generation of Adam," and that is reminding you that it is a self-contained unit. It is a unit in which the line of Seth is traced all the way down to Noah. And the story of Noah will then be concentrated on for four consecutive chapters. But I want you to see three significant lessons that are taught in this passage tonight. There is no way that we can possibly do justice to all the truth that God has recorded in His words here. So let's concentrate on three things.

I. Our fallen human selfimage must comprehend dignity and humility.

First of all in verses 1 through 3, Moses recounts for us the original creation. He reminds us again that God made man in his image and that teaches us that our fallen, human self-image must comprehend both dignity and humility. That as we contemplate ourselves as creatures, as humans made in the image of God but fallen, we must take into consideration both the dignity with which God has invested us and the appropriate humility that we ought to have before Him as fallen creatures. Look again at those words, especially in 1 and 2: "This is the book of the generations of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them man in the day when they were created." Moses begins the chapter by reiterating the fact that humans are made in the very likeness of God.

Notice in verse 2 we are specifically told that male and female are called Adam. He created the male and female. He blessed them and He named them Adam. He named them man. And this reminds us both of the headship of Adam, the man. And it also reminds us that both male and female share in the image of God. It takes both male and female to express what God means by human. Both complement one another. Both are necessary as the Apostle Paul will remind us again.

Notice also in verse 3 we are reminded of the unique sonship that God has destined for us. Even as we are said to have been created in the likeness of God, look at this phrase: "When Adam had lived one-hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness according to his image." Just like image and likeness had been used for our relationship to God, so those words are used for Adam's son's relationship to him. And so just as God created Adam in His likeness, Adam has a son in his likeness. This is a reminder of Adam's exalted position. You remember Luke calls him in the genealogy of Christ, Son of God, Adam, Son of God. And Moses’ repetition of this information about God's image in man is designed to call attention to the dignity with which God had invested man. Calvin says "it was already a great thing that the principal place among the creatures was given to man. But it is a nobility far more exalted that he should bear resemblance to his Creator as a son does to his father." And so in this we see a foreshadowing of the glory that we have as adopted sons and daughters of God through Christ.

Now there's much application to be gleaned just from those few verses. Let me just mention two or three things. First of all, do you note that God takes notice of the line of Seth in this passage? This passage shows how God values His people. He names individuals and eras. Each of these men and women are known in the line of Seth, they are known to God, and they are remembered by Him. They may have been forgotten by the world. If the world of this time had set down a genealogy of the most famous, the most prestigious, the most important, I dare say it would have been a different genealogy than the line of Seth. But in God's eyes, this is the line of blessings, and He cares for His people, He remembers how long they live, He remembers their names, He remembers them before His face. What an example of God's goodness and grace in the line of Seth. And herein we see the dignity with which God has invested His people, even in this fallen world.

Notice also that there are only brief outlines of the patriarch's lives given to us. No full biographies are given. Even in the stories of Enoch and Lamech, which are the longest descriptions of the line, precious little is told about each of the people in these chapters. In the end, the only thing that mattered was that they were in the line of Seth. Now that's so important for us to remember today. Our lives are filled with busyness, rushing to and fro, serving on boards, serving on programs, actively involved in the community, supporting the life of the church. What in the end will ultimately matter? Isn't it interesting that in each of these cases all that we are told of these men, who they were, how long they lived, that they had children, that they had children in the godly line, and that they died. All the record of the accounts of their lives forgotten except that they were in the line of belief, and that they have covenant children who were in the line of belief. Does that not put perspective on where the focus of our energies need to be as believers in the rearing of covenant children, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Notice again, as we look at this passage, we remember that we are fallen sons of Adam and that heightens, it reminds us what we have lost by the fall. In Genesis 5, verses 1 and 2, we are reminded that we were created in the likeness of God originally. But now we enter into this world in the likeness of fallen Adam. And that involves guilt and corruption and as this passage constantly repeats, it involves death. Over and over again we see the roots and fruits of sin in our lives and that ought to humble us before the Lord. So as we consider ourselves as fallen humans, we must not only remember the dignity with which we are still invested, but we also must remember the proper humility which we ought to have before the Lord.

II. God preserves a people for Himself.

Then if you will look at verses 3 through 32, and I just want to highlight four particular individuals. Beginning in verse 3, the genealogy of Seth is given: "When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth." Here we see the line of salvation stretching all the way from the creation, all the way to the flood. And we learn from some of the emphases in this passage that God preserved a people for Himself even in a time of wickedness, even in a time of degeneracy. God always preserves a people for Himself. Let's look at four of these people. Let's look at Seth in verses 3 through 5. Let's look at Enoch in verses 21 through 24. Let's look at Lamech, the Sethite Lamech. We’ll compare the Cainite Lamech in a minute. Lamech, in verse 29, and then let's look at Noah in verses 29 and 32.

Seth is the son of Adam. And I want you to note that nobody in the line of Cain is named in Genesis, chapter 5. In Genesis 4, we are told about the line of Cain. But in the line of the seed of the woman, in the godly line of salvation, Cain and his family are never mentioned. Even though they are the inventors of tools, even though they are inventors of art and music, even though they are builders of city, they are never mentioned in the line of salvation. Listen to these frightening words of Derek Kidner, "In the history of salvation, the family of Cain is an irrelevance." Now those are words that we would never want to hear about our own family, and so they are sobering words. Calvin tells us this: "We may readily conclude that Seth was an upright and faithful servant of God, and after he begat a son like himself, and had rightly constituted the family, the face of the church began distinctly to appear and the worship of God was set up which might continue to posterity." And that was made clear in Genesis 4, verse 26, because we are told there that in the time of Seth, men began to call upon the name of the Lord. And that seems to be set to the account of the godly line of Seth.

Notice how deliberate God is in carrying out His promises. He had made a promise to Adam and to Eve after they had fallen into sin, that there would be a seed which would rise up in war against the serpent. And we remember Eve in Genesis 4, hoping that perhaps that seed was Cain and being disappointed. And then, of course, Abel, the righteous son, we have hope that that will be the seed which will carry on in war against the serpent, and Abel is killed by his older brother, Cain. And finally Seth appears on the scene, and the line of salvation is set in motion. God is deliberate. We have to wait often for an answer to our prayers. But God arrives with His promises.

Notice also throughout this chapter these tremendous ages given to these pre-flood patriarchs. They are meant literally. The very fact of their ages enabled them to transmit the revealed word of God, His will, more effectively as it was remembered overlapping great numbers of years in each generation. Now let's look at Enoch in verses 21 through 24. Enoch is the one who we are told walked with God, and he was no more. Walked with God is a phrase in the Old Testament which reminds us of the intimacy which the righteous have with God. To walk with someone is to have an opportunity for fellowship and companionship where you can concentrate on one another as you walk and talk. And so walking with God portrays this intimacy with God which Enoch had. And that is the very essence of Old Testament piety. This is not the only time that phrase is used in the Old Testament. Walked with God is used of Noah, for instance, in Genesis 6, verse 9. Noah walked with God. In Isaiah 41, verse 8 a similar metaphor is used saying that Abraham was a friend of God. And of course in Exodus 33:11 we are told that Moses new God face to face, and that Jacob in Genesis 32, verse 28, wrestled with God, and in Genesis 32, verse 30, saw him face to face. Each of these metaphors stresses the closeness of a righteous man with his God by grace.

Now, by the way, we can see a stark contrast in the spiritual posture of the people in the line of Cain and the people in the line of Seth by comparing Lamech in the line of Cain and his words to the words of Enoch. Look back to Genesis 4, verses 23 and 24. These are the words of Lamech, the sixth from Cain. "Lamech said to his wives, ‘Adah and Zillah, listen to my voice, you wives of Lamech, give heed to my speech, for I have killed a man for wounding me; and a boy for striking me; if Cain is avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.’" We see the words of violence and perversity in Lamech, the sixth from Cain. But let's look then over to Jude. Turn with me to the New Testament to Jude where, in verses 14 and 15 of that little one chapter book, Jude records for us the words the Enoch, the sixth from Adam. "And about these also Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which the ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.’" The contrast between these two lines is apparent in the words of these two members of those two lines. One, cursing with his mouth. The other uttering words of judgment and warning about wickedness. Enoch and Lamech. We see two different spiritual postures in the two lines.

Notice also Lamech of the line of Seth in Genesis 5, verse 29. Lamech, the Sethite is the father of Noah. He lived 182 years, and he became the father of Noah, and he says in verse 29, this one shall give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed. Lamech is remembered for his words just like his counterpart in the line of Cain is remembered for his words. The Cainite Lamech is remembered for his arrogance in uttering oaths and threats. The Sethite Lamech, the father of Noah, is remembered for his longing. He longed to see a relief from the curse of the fall, and so he named his son, Noah, which means rest. He longed to see the rest of God in the light of the godly line. And so we turn to Noah in verses 29 and 32. He is the one who would be the Lord's instrument to bring in a measure rest. Now Noah's mission was something far more radical than his father, Lamech, even envisioned. There would be a judgment far greater than any judgment that had ever been visited by God to this point in the history of the world. But out of that judgment Noah's family would be destined for the restoration of the second world.

And so we come to the last member of the line of salvation from the creation to the flood listed here in Genesis 5:3-32. And we learn again the lesson that God preserves for Himself a people, even in their time of degeneracy, even in a time where sin is working its way out in humanity, God is always preserving a people for himself.

III. No sin will go unpunished.

Now one last thing I want to draw to your attention tonight. And you’re going to see this repeatedly in a number of passages from verse 5 all the way to verse 31. And that is the truth that no sin will go unpunished. Even as we remember that our fallen self-image ought to contain both humility and dignity, and as we remember that God preserves the people for himself. We also learn in this passage that no sin will go unpunished. We see in verses 5 through 31 the reign of death as well as one ray of hope and grace. Here the consequences of sin are gravely chanted over and over again in the phrase, "and He died." When I first read Genesis 5, what caught my attention were the tremendous ages of the patriarchs, but Moses did not want us to be impressed by their ages. What he wanted to be impressed by was that haunting phrase which recurs at the end of all but one of the list in this genealogy. Look first at verse 5: "Adam lived nine hundred and thirty years and he died." Verse 8: "The days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years, and he died." Verse 11: "All the days of Enosh were nine hundred and five years, and he died." Verse 14: "All the days of Kenon were nine hundred and ten years, and he died." Verse 17: "All the days of Mahalalel were eight hundred and ninety-five years, and he died." Verse 20: "So all of the days of Jared were nine hundred and sixty-two years, and he died." Then especially verse 24, Enoch walked with God, and he was not for God took him. And then back to verse 27. "All the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years, and he died." Then Lamech, in verse 31: "All the days of Lamech were seven hundred and seventy-seven years, and he died." Listen to what Calvin says about that phrase, and he died: "This clause, which records the death of each patriarch, is by no means superfluous, for it warns us that death was not in vain denounced against men. And that we are now exposed to the curse to which man was doomed unless we obtain deliverance elsewhere."

Death, and its constant appearance in this passage, reminds us of God's judgment against sin. Satan had said you shall surely not die. God proved him wrong over and over and over again in Genesis 4 and 5. Genesis 4 and 5 is the proof that when God speaks, He speaks the truth, and that when Satan speaks, he lies. Satan said they would not die, and so they would hear in their ears. And remember, because of their age, that Adam and Eve would for hundreds and hundreds of years witness the effect of their sin in the world. We think how wonderful it would be to live that long. Can you imagine living for nine hundred years having your wife say, "This is all your fault," and Adam saying, "Yes, but you gave me the fruit." Over and over and over in their experience they saw the effect of their sin. It would have almost made you pray for the Lord to take you just He did Enoch.

The death of these things also reminds the wicked of the impending final judgment. Listen to what the great Scottish minister, R.S. Candlish says: "At each death of a saint, another hour of the world's day of grace is gone. As of patriarch after patriarch it is announced that he is dead; there is a new alarm rung; a new call given forth. They depart one by one from the scene; each leaving his dying testimony to a guilty world." In this passage which constantly repeats the refrain, "and he died," there are but two rays of hope. The ray of hope in Noah, and the ray of hope we see in verse 24 with Enoch: "God took him." God received him to Himself because Enoch regarded God more than man. He walked with him all the days of his life.

If we would follow in the line of Seth, then we must care more about what God thinks than what man thinks, just like Enoch. Notice how the posterity of Seth maintains the cause of religion even in the midst of increasing degeneracy. And there is no worse contagion than bad examples. And in the midst of a world full of bad examples, the line of Seth had held up the worship of the true God and the hope of the godly line. Listen again to Calvin's words: "Let those, then, who please, glory in living according to the customs of others; yet the Spirit of God has established a rule of living well and rightly, by which we depart from the examples of men who do not form their life and manners according to the law of God. For he who, pouring contempt upon the word of God, yields himself up to the imitation of the world, must be regarded as living to the devil, not living to God."

And so we are called, by the very testimony of the godly line, to live with more concern about what God thinks of us, to hear that report said that we are in the line of Seth and not to care about the world's estimation. And if we are to follow in the way of Seth, we must hope beyond the boundaries of this mortal life. Does not the story remind us of Enoch remind us again that this is not all there is? And does not the very sparsity of the account of the lives of the patriarchs remind us that this is not all there is. All our work, all our labors, all our writings, all of our industry - gone. Never more to be again. But our families and our faithfulness to God, remembered to God, remembered forever, accounted in His word. May the Lord help us to walk with God in the line of Seth. Let's pray.

Our heavenly Father, we thank You for this passage. We thank You for Christ's death and for the stirring reminder of the necessity of our trust in God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Help each one of us cling to Christ by faith. Lord, if there is anyone here who does not know what it means to trust in Christ, to rest in Him alone for salvation, I pray that that person's heart would be so moved that he could not leave this place; she could not leave this place tonight before they have done business with God and been joined to the godly line which will live forever and ever more. We ask these things through Jesus’ Christ, our Lord, Amen.

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