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Home School of Biblical Theology Doing Biblical Theology: Autonomy and the Majestic Ruin that is Man - Genesis 4:1 – 5:24 Talk 5

Doing Biblical Theology: Autonomy and the Majestic Ruin that is Man - Genesis 4:1 – 5:24 Talk 5

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Doing Biblical Theology: Autonomy and the Majestic Ruin that is Man - Genesis 4:1 – 5:24

Talk 5

How bad can the situation in God’s world get? It started out so well. But Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s plan for his world and decided to do things their way instead.

Their rebellion changed everything. God’s universe is no longer what it should be. Adam and Eve now show little of God’s image as they were created to.

But it gets worse in chapters 4-11, the next major section of Genesis. Adam and Eve’s sin spreads to successive generations. Look at table 4.

The twin themes of spreading sin and spreading grace are illustrated in three major episodes in chapters 4-11, beginning with Adam and Eve’s immediate family, then extending to the whole world in the story of the flood and Babel.

Once again these stories are real history, but arranged into patterns that help us see the important points. Each story has a clear pattern: The awfulness of sin; the reality of God’s judgment; and through it all, we see that God’s grace also spreads in spite of rebellion.

God shows his people that rebellion has inevitable consequences, but he also shows his deep concern to extend grace to the sinner.

Man’s rebellion from God’s rule, only managed to severely damage God’s image bearers.

Turn with me now to the text of chapter 4 – A new generation and new hope (4:1-2).

Verses 1&2 restore some hope to a very bleak situation.

Adam and Eve are a majestic ruin. They are in ruins since they are at odds with God, and excluded from the good life in his special place. But they still have the majesty of being image bearers, not abandoned by God and aware of God’s ongoing care and grace in their lives.

And in the birth of two children, we see the majestic nature of being image bearers. Adam and Eve have created a new generation of image bearers. This is the ultimate result of being made in the image of God.

It also raises the possibility that one of these children might be the bruiser, the offspring of Eve, 3:15, who would fix the mess caused by rebellion: who would deal with Satan and undo the effects of sin in God’s world and in the lives of his ruined image bearers.

This introduction is real history, but it is arranged to be a picture or parable of both the reality of sin and the reality of ongoing grace in God’s world. The situation is terrible, but it is not hopeless because there are hints of future grace.

And this mix of sin and grace is seen clearly in the next generation as the focus shifts to Adam and Eve’s first-born son Cain: a model of autonomy and ‘ruin’ (4:3-24).

Once again we need to be careful not to lose the big picture of this passage by getting lost in detail. We are not told how Cain and Abel knew to bring offerings to God. Perhaps God had told them, or perhaps they were just responding to that deep seated human desire to connect to the divine, which is the essence of religion in all generations.

And we should not conclude that Cain’s offering was refused because it did not have blood. The main point on display in this section is Cain’s world-view of autonomy or doing things his own way without reference to God.

Verses 4-5. Cain was convinced he could approach God on his own terms, and as an equal. Friends give one another gifts and this is what Cain did. He gave God a gift, and expected God’s blessing in return.

In contrast Abel’s world-view was that God was a great king. Only the very best could truly honour him and truly picture the relationship of creator and creature.

Cain’s attitude is shown in his response to God’s rejection. Cain was offended at God. Cain felt it was God’s problem: that God had not treated him as he deserved to be treated. He had done something nice for God, and God should have shown proper appreciation.

And perhaps he was also jealous of his younger brother Abel’s acceptance by God.

Verses 6-8. Cain’s rebellious attitude is confirmed as he chooses to reject God’s word of warning and grace. God exposes Cain’s bad attitude and offers him the chance to correct his mistake and be accepted on God’s terms.

But rather than be ruled by God’s word and have God determine what was right, Cain decides he would be God and he would decide what is right. So he kills his brother. This was an act of war, stating that anybody who followed God’s orders was an enemy of Cain, because God was now his enemy.

Verse 9, the full extent of Cain’s rejection of God’s rule is seen as he refuses to be held accountable by God.

Cain’s rebellion against God and determination to do his own thing all comes crashing down in verse 10. The Lord challenges him in the same words as he challenged Adam and Eve years earlier (3:13). Like his parents before him, he will experience God’s judgment for his rebellion and defiance.

And in line with Adam and Eve, Cain would be a ‘restless wanderer’: a person without a true home and without true rest, without the truly good life. He would continue to live physically, but it would not have the truly good life that only comes from living under God’s rule.

Verses 11-24 tell the story of how Cain built a culture based on ignoring God and making up his own rules, with violence and self-interest dominating -

- Where people tried to defy God by building a city of sorts to create an alternative community to God’s garden community;

- where people such as Lamech acted as though they were God and ruthlessly demanded a far higher payment for personal hurt than the Lord demanded for Abel’s life.

Friends, if anything Cain’s rebellion against the Lord was more determined and awful than his parents. It is a terrible picture of sin. It is a great picture of the emptiness of the so-called good life lived apart from God, which was really no life at all.

Yet in among all the sin and rebellion, we also see evidence of God’s grace to Cain and his descendents. God committed himself personally to protect Cain from the consequences of his evil actions. God blessed Cain’s descendents with a level of creativity expressed in musical instruments for comfort and pleasure and new inventions to make life easier.

Cain is clearly not the bruiser who would fix the mess of sin. And Cain’s line illustrates the emptiness and hopelessness of life in rebellion against God. So, clearly the Garden of Eden conditions will not be restored through Cain or his line of humanity. Once again we are left with a sad outlook.

But then we hear of another birth with Seth: a model of ‘being God’s person’ & hope.

It is no coincidence that the birth of baby Seth also gives birth to new excitement and hope. There is new hope in his name: Seth means ‘granted’ or ‘given as a gift’. Clearly Adam and Eve believed that God had not abandoned them in their sin and misery.

And there is hope in the fact that Seth was to replace, in the sense of ‘being like’ faithful Abel, thus restoring the possibility that perhaps Seth would be the promised bruiser. In fact, the word for child in v25 is the same word as offspring or seed in 3:15.

And there is even greater hope, verse 26, in the fact that Seth’s line does show the faithfulness of Abel, which is totally different to Cain’s line.

Seth’s line is clearly the godly line determined to live under the rule of the word of God. They were showing their world-view by acknowledging their desperate need for God’s mercy and grace if they were to have the truly good life in God’s world.

And that characteristic or world-view defined Seth descendents right down to Noah. It is interesting that there is no reference to great inventions or cultural development as was the case with Cain. The point is that their life was not defined by anything other than living under the rule of God’s word.

And clearly the two genealogies highlight this contrast in their structure. There were seven generations from Cain to Lamech, a man who rejected God’s rule and experienced his punishment. Likewise there were seven generations from Seth to Enoch, a man who lived under God’s rule and who experienced God’s acceptance and who was spared ultimate consequence of sin, death.

But godly though this line was, none of them were the bruiser for each in turn died. Though the lived under God’s rule, they were still under the curse of sin and not able to fix the mess. But, verse 29, once more expectations return with the prophecy of Noah’s father.

So, at the end of this section we are left with the clear division of humanity into those who are determined to ignore God and his rule, and those who are determined to live under the rule of God’s word as they were created to do.

And clearly the bruiser will come from the godly line, though as yet he has not appeared though there is ongoing evidence of God’s grace and commitment to his promise to send the bruiser to fix the mess and restore his kingdom – putting God’s people back in God’s place and under his rule.

And perhaps Enoch is yet another glimpse of the future and how God might act to remove the inevitability of death for his people.

Now, once again we must ask how these chapters apply to us in 2011.

1. Keep God’s big picture together. As chapters 1 & 2 stands together showing the goodness of God’s creation and God’s purpose for mankind, so also chapters 3-5 stand together as a unit. They teach us about both sin and grace.

They teach us about the beginning of sin, and what sin is like, and the impact of sin on the image bearer, and the spread of sin in God’s world. And they also teach us that God has not abandoned his world or his image bearer in spite of their rebellion. He continues to show grace and mercy to otherwise hopeless people.

They teach us that God has promised to send the bruiser to fix the mess of sin and restore his kingdom or rule. The whole of the Old Testament is simply the story of God’s preparation for this very important event that finally arrives in the person of the Lord Jesus coming into the world.

So it would be wrong to take the story of Cain and Abel and make the main point that of handling conflict between brothers or about guilt as a result of doing something bad. It would be wrong to ignore the genealogies because they show us how the groups of people in our world are divided.

Rather we need to ask:-

-What do these verses add to God’s big story of the whole bible – his plan to send Jesus the bruiser to undo the effects of sin and restore his kingdom rule?

- How do these verses highlight God’s gracious commitment to sinful people as he achieves his purpose?

- How do these verses add to God’s glory as creator and saviour?

2. Hear God’s whisper of Jesus. There is a wonderful parallel between Jesus and Abel which highlights the struggle between the bruiser and Satan or sin and evil. It is also God’s whisper pointing us to Jesus.

Listen to Matthew 27:25 . Like Cain, the Jewish religious authorities only wanted to worship God on their own terms, and were not open to be ruled by God’s word. So, like Cain they preferred to kill Jesus, who had been a model of goodness and true worship to them, rather than repent and do good as Jesus encouraged them to do, and gave them so many opportunities to do.

But there is also a huge contrast between Jesus and Cain as first-born sons and their impact on God’s world and God’s people.

Listen to Hebrews 12:24 . Abel’s blood called out for judgment because of Cain’s act of rebellion. Adam’s first-born son killed Abel, the innocent, faithful servant of God and by doing this added to the problem of sin and maintained the cycle of disobedience and misery and death.

But God’s first-born son, the one of whom the Lord said, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased” Jesus, took death upon himself as the innocent one and by doing this broke the cycle of sin and death. Jesus dealt with sin and restored people to relationship and true worship of God.

People are still divided into two groups, each headed by a first-born son, and each representing a world-view. People in your family, street or city or nation are either ‘In Adam’ or they are ‘In Christ’.

If people are ‘In Adam’, then like Cain, they are determined to reject the rule of God’s word in their life and seek the good life apart from God.

Like Cain they gladly throw themselves into building a culture of rebellion – a culture where God is rejected and human achievement is worshipped and pleasing themselves is most important.

And as result they are under God’s judgment, and deep down are really restless and wandering, even as they try to convince themselves and others that they are safe and secure and at home.

The only alternative is to be ‘In Christ’, to be part of Christ’s new group of people, achieved through Christ’s death on the cross. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 makes this point.

We are ‘In Christ’ by trusting Jesus to deal with our sin, make us acceptable to God, and renew us from the inside out so that we truly are a new creation able and willing to live obedient lives under God’s rule and enjoy him as we were created to enjoy him.

And where do we see this new group of people? In the church. Listen to Ephesians 3:10-13 . Friends it is our responsibility as Christians to show the watching world the reality of the good life, and show them that serving Jesus is the good life; a life of satisfaction and blessing.

I know that most of you are keen to tell others about Jesus and the new life that is to be found in him. But we must also show them the gospel in our own stories and in our own journey in life.

Go to Talk 6

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 January 2011 14:59  

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