Life can sometimes seem pretty miserable—even for the believer. Sometimes, there are situations that we face that seem almost hopeless. The clouds gather, dreams and loved ones die, friendships fail, careers end and health deteriorates. And so we wonder if we will ever see the emotional sunshine in our lives again.
Sometimes, believers lose hope with regard to God’s work in the world. The Lord’s Prayer sometimes seems as though it will never be answered (when will God’s kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven). One result is that we play interpretive word games and push the Lord’s Prayer into some future dispensation. Nations seem to grow harder to the gospel and it looks as if the so-called 10/40 window (the most unreached area in the world) will never be opened. Our own communities seem to be gripped with evil, practical atheism and scepticism. And this is true sometimes even in our own families and amongst those who attend our church.
In sum, we are often and easily tempted toward pessimism. “The world will succeed in ignoring God,” we cry in despair. “The church is small and insignificant.” There is little doubt that this is how Adam and Eve felt for a long time. They were surrounded by those in the land of Nod, with very little to show for the kingdom of God. The culture with which they were surrounded—led by their son Cain—was running from God and it seemed to be winning the race. Society was hypocritically religious, reprobate, godless in its resourcefulness and full of arrogant revenge. It seemed that the seed of the serpent was winning hands down; there seemed to be no competition.
But then, 130 years after the day of their creation, a miracle broke into the mess: Seth was born and the history of humanity began to change. Suddenly, God’s seed took centre stage and God received all the glory (for it was all His work). The verses quoted above are of tremendous importance for us to understand. We rarely thrill with excitement at the prospect of approaching the biblical genealogies—Jay Adams said that the genealogies are like the telephone book: you don’t look at it every day, but you consult it when you are looking for a name or number. But I believe that the genealogies are more that a divine telephone book: they are crucial in understanding our world. Genealogies throughout Scripture show us that God is winning in this world; that He is still performing miracles amidst the mess. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?” and answers, “The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.” And though we certainly are in a state of sin and misery God still works mightily in this world to accomplish His purposes.
As we study these verses together I want us to realise that, indeed, God performed miracles in Bible days and that He continues to do so today. I trust that we will see what God has done, what He is doing and what He will continue to do in our world.
The Formation of God’s People
In our previous study we considered largely the mess in which the world found itself through the line of Cain (Genesis 4:16-24). The genealogy of Cain was thoroughly ungodly but the genealogy of Seth is wonderfully contrasted with that in 4:25-5:32. Very simply put, the miracle amidst the mess was the formation of God’s people:
And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew. And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.
This is God’s miraculous act in human history. Francis Schaeffer has noted that this is the record of divided humanity; that is, the division of the godly line and the ungodly line in human history. Whereas 4:16-24 records the birth of the city of man, 4:25-26 records the birth of the city of God. We might rightly say that 4:25-26 records the birth of the church of God.
Both lines came about quite naturally. Earlier, we read that “Adam knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain…” (4:1). Consequently, “Cain knew his wife and she conceived…” (4:17). Now we read that “Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth…” Whilst both Cain and Seth were born naturally something supernatural happened in Seth’s life: he was born to be born again. Some 105 years later, Seth fathered a child—Enos—who was also born to be born again (4:26; 5:6-8). And when Enos was born, “then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.”
It took some time (130 years since creation; we cannot be sure how long since the murder of Abel), but eventually—in the fullness of time—the seed came. Imagine for a moment the doubts that Adam and Eve must have had from the time of Abel’s death to the time of Seth’s birth. The Lord had promised them that a godly line would come that would crush the serpent’s ungodly people (Genesis 3:15). They had believed that Cain might be that seed; he was not. Perhaps they were beginning to wonder if Abel was meant to be that seed; he was dead. Perhaps they wondered, “Is this ever going to come to pass?” All they could see was the wickedness in the land of Nod. But then, when they were 130 years old, Seth was born. Imagine the delight! Somehow, it was communicated to Eve that this was the godly seed, for she knew that “God hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.” Now she realised that, just as God had separated light from darkness at creation (Genesis 1:1-5), so He would now separate those in the kingdom of darkness from those in the kingdom of light.
God’s people were formed by faith. I would imagine that it must have taken some faith for Adam and Eve to have another child. “What if he is another Cain?” they must have asked. Nevertheless, the promise of God (Genesis 3:15) was in their mind and, by faith, they continued the commission that God had given them (Genesis 1:27-28).
Was this not true of the beginnings of the new covenant church? It began with twelve men, of whom one—Judas Iscariot—was a devil (John 6:70). Yet this is the group through whom Christ promised to build His church. By the time of Pentecost in Acts 2 the group had grown to a rather meagre 120 (Acts 1:15). These disciples were hiding behind a door in an upper room, fearing the opposition that they faced from the Jewish religious leaders. Then the Spirit of God comes powerfully upon them. Peter preaches and the church instantly grows by 3,000 (Acts 2:41). A few chapters later, the church swells by another 5,000 (Acts 4:4) so that the church could only be called a “multitude” (Acts 4:32) and a “great multitude” (Acts 14:1). Judaism and Romanism opposed the church in the harshest way and there were doubtless times of darkness asking, “When will our deliverance arrive?” But then God began His missionary work in earnest (Acts 13ff) so that the church spread across the globe. Today, though there are still people groups considered unreached with the gospel, the church has effectively spread across the globe according to the promise of God. Though it started as a small stone it has become a great mountain (Daniel 2:34-35, 44).
Times of darkness and doubting did not end in the New Testament era. In the Dark Ages it seemed as if the light of the gospel had been extinguished but then God raised up men like Martin Luther and John Calvin. Suddenly, amidst the apostate religious mess, God’s miracle brought the light back to the church. Even in my lifetime I have seen the church in some pretty dark times. In fact, I believe that the church has been in a great mess for the last 150 years due to a great deal of man-centred theology. But, over the last decade, I have begun to see some very positive things happening amongst God’s people.
I recently received a telephone call from a man in London, a frequent visitor to our website. From his voice I could gather that he was an older man. Over the years he has come to embrace the doctrines of grace: the truth that salvation is by grace along, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for God’s glory alone, according to the Scriptures alone. An understanding of this doctrine has changed his life.
It seems to me that God is doing a great work in this world, bringing believers back to a proper understanding of the Scriptures and the church back to a God-centred message. Amidst all the darkness of our world, Jesus Christ continues to build His church, assuring us that the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
Having given birth to another son, Eve named him “Seth” (‘the appointed one’). Seth, in turn, fathered a son named “Enos” (‘frail’ or ‘mortal’). In Bible days, children were named for specific reasons: either to display a character that the parents wanted the child to manifest, or to teach some or other biblical truth.
Now, if I had a son I would name him something ‘strong’, ‘masculine’—Doug, perhaps! But I would probably not give him a name meaning ‘frail’. But this is perhaps because I am not as smart as Seth was. You see, Seth named his son ‘frail’ because he wanted Enos to grow up realising what he was before God: a mere mortal. Seth saw his elder brother Cain as a man who believed that he was self-sufficient and he wanted his child to know that he must acknowledge his frail mortality before a holy, eternal God. No doubt, Enos came to a saving knowledge of Christ by the grace of God and “then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.”
The phrase “to call upon the name of the Lord” can be interpreted in several ways. (1) Some say that men began to proclaim the name of Jehovah. (2) Others say that men began then to worship Jehovah. John Calvin, for instance, wrote that this was “a restoration of worship” and “a miracle that there was at this time a single family in which the worship of God arose.” James Montgomery Boice took the same interpretation, “The believers of this day did constitute a small church and it was a miracle.” (3) Still others say that men began to call themselves by the name of God. That is, in the same way that Cain was marked by evil, men began to ‘mark’ themselves by the name of the Lord. For instance, “Mahalaleel” (5:15-17) means ‘praise of God’ and perhaps some of the other names have reference to God in them, identifying the fact that these were followers of Jehovah.
I see no reason that we cannot accept all three of the above interpretations. As a body of people, this line began (2) to worship the Lord corporately, part of which was (1) to call upon and proclaim the name of the Lord. As a result, they were eager and happy (3) to name and identify themselves with Jehovah. This is precisely what God’s people—the church—is all about: we gladly confess our allegiance to God, worshipping and proclaiming Him. By God’s grace alone (for we are all, like Enos, frail) the church is a unique people and our worldview must allow the church a big space. The church is not small and defeated; she is God’s priority in this world and He will continue to build her! God’s kingdom will become a mountain to fill the entire earth!
In light of this I would ask, How important is the Body of Christ to you? You will never have a thoroughly Christian worldview until you realise that the local church must be important to you because it is important to Christ!
The Focus on God’s Priority
Not only was the miracle the formation of God’s people; it was also focused on God’s priority. It is a simple yet profound truth that God’s priority is to be worshipped. And God will be worshipped! “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10 – emphases added). The Westminster Shorter Catechism answers the question, “What is the chief end of man?” with, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” John Piper has well said that “the chief end of God is to glorify himself and to enjoy himself forever.” That is why the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer is, “Hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9). God’s priority is His own glory; not man’s happiness!
I recently saw Dana Reeve—wife of the late Christopher Reeve—interviewed on the Oprah Winfrey Show. I was amazed to see her filled with happiness and hope knowing that she rejects Christ! It dawned on me watching the show that our evangelism is often way off centre. We often present the gospel by asking, “Are you happy?” Then, when the person answers yes, we are speechless because that is not the answer we were expecting. We might change it a little and ask, “Are you unfulfilled?” But again we are silenced when the answer is no. We need to understand that many who reject Christ are happy and fulfilled. If our evangelism starts with man we have gone wrong: evangelism must start with God. Perhaps we should ask, “Do you know God, who is holy?” Every gospel sermon in the Book of Acts begins with God; contemporary evangelism has ‘lost the plot’ somewhere along the line.
The fact that God desires (and commands) worship is evident from the fact that the godly line saw their priority as this: “to call upon the name of the Lord” (4:26). Cain’s line was doubtless happy at times—it was that line that developed industry, entertainment and agriculture—but they were not holy. The miracle amidst the mess has one major result: people worship God! It is a miracle of grace that men seek “a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 10:11). Apart from grace, man is content to live in the land of Nod; but no man who has experienced grace will settle for anything less than the city of God.
Those who have been miraculously saved by God’s amazing grace seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). They make their boast in the Lord (Psalm 34:2). They do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with their God (Micah 6:8). They find their joy, purpose and refuge in the Lord. They seek to so live as to conform to His holy standards. In short, they live courageously and counterculturally:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
The Christian worldview puts the believer in a collision course with the world for the kingdoms are in conflict. I was recently sitting at home after dinner, waiting to go back to the church to teach at our Shepherds School. I picked up a book that one of my daughters was reading and began to page through it. The book, entitled Won by Love, was tremendous; I couldn’t put it down (for a summary of the story, see online “Roe v. McCorvey”). It is the story of a lady named Norma McCorvey who at one time was a major pro-abortion spokesperson (she was the “Jane Roe” in the 1976 Roe vs. Wade US Supreme Court case when abortion was legalised the USA). The book records her journey from abortion icon to Christian pro-life activist.
At one time, Ms. McCorvey worked at an abortion clinic called “A Choice for Women.” Christian group, Operation Rescue (OR), worked in the same town where Ms. McCorvey worked. OR was looking for new premises from which to operate and a landlord found them a new building: right alongside the abortion clinic at which Ms. McCorvey’s worked! OR soon moved into the new premises. Every day they would see Ms. McCorvey walking past on her way to work. Every day they would see women filing to the clinic for abortions and would immediately stop them on the street and try to talk them out of it.
The leader of OR was a man named Flip Benham. Ms. McCorvey used to call Mr. Benham “Flip Venom.” Mr. Benham plainly said that Ms. McCorvey was “responsible for the deaths of 35 million children.” The OR staff and other pro-life activists gathered daily outside the clinic to protest, and clashes would often ensue between the staff at the abortion clinic and the pro-life demonstrators outside. Ms. McCorvey was usually involved in these clashes.
Occasionally, the clashes would lead to civil conversation and, during one such conversation, Ms. McCorvey said to Mr. Benham, “What you need is to go to a good Beach Boys concert.” Without flinching, Mr. Benham said to Ms. McCorvey, “Miss Norma, I haven’t been to a Beach Boys concert since 1976.” By her own testimony, this shook Ms. McCorvey:
Before, I had thought of Flip as a man who did nothing but yell at abortion clinics and read his Bible. In fact, I even pictured him sleeping with his hands across his chest, Dracula-like, with a big Bible tucked under his arms. The thought that he was a real person—a guy who had once even gone to a Beach Boys concert—never occurred to me. Now that it had, I saw him in a new light.
Ms. McCorvey, though shaken, continued goading, “Come on, Flip, I didn’t know you were ever a sinner.” Mr. Benham replied that he was, in fact, “a great big sinner, saved by a great big God.” As they continued to converse, Mr. Benham began to share stories from his past—even the story of when, before he was saved, he had asked his wife to have an abortion. “Out of this vulnerability,” writes Ms. McCorvey, “an unlikely friendship was born.”
Other volunteers for OR began reaching out to Ms. McCorvey, sharing the gospel with her. In return, she sought to explain her superstitious practices to them. “It wasn’t exactly Elijah and the prophets of Baal,” she writes, “but in both our minds it was clearly a case of ‘may the true God win.’”
Soon after, Ms. McCorvey was further challenged by Emily, the seven-year-old daughter of OR volunteer Ronda Mackey. Whilst I certainly wouldn’t condone taking a seven-year-old to protest at an abortion clinic, there is no doubt that God used this little girl to reach Ms. McCorvey with His gospel.
Emily was rather upfront with Ms. McCorvey, with “blatant affection, frequent hugs, and direct pursuit” which “disarmed” her. Though Emily made it clear she hated abortion she was willing to befriend Ms. McCorvey. During one conversation, Ms. McCorvey told Emily that she liked children and that she would never let anyone hurt them; to which Emily immediately replied, “Then why do you let them kill the babies at the clinic?” As if that wasn’t enough, Emily was once in Ms. McCorvey’s office when she lost her temper with a caller, “I’d just as soon see you in hell as see you in here!” Emily responded, “You don’t have to go to hell, Miss Norma. You can pray right now and Jesus will forgive you.” Ms. McCorvey recalls:
This childlike faith cut open my heart, making me receptive to the truth being shared by the adult volunteers at Rescue. I wasn’t won over by compelling apologetics. I had a ninth grade education and a very soft heart. While the O.R. adults targeted my mind, Emily went straight for the heart.
It was when she learned from Emily’s mother that Emily had almost been aborted that the little girl began to “personify the issue of abortion” for Ms. McCorvey. Ronda was engaged when she fell pregnant with Emily and her fiancée, her mother and her future in-laws all tried to convince her to have an abortion. Though she almost went through with it she eventually decided not to.
Ms. McCorvey and Mr. Benham continued to strengthen their friendship and soon this attracted nationwide attention. Ms. Benham recalls how pro-abortionists began to alienate her whilst pro-lifers continued to befriend her. It wasn’t long before she started going to the clinic just to talk with the OR volunteers. “I was scheduled to work just two days a week,” she recalls, “but, I couldn’t wait that long to get one of Emily’s hugs.”
The Christian love of the OR workers—even in the face of opposition—continued to work on Ms. McCorvey’s heart. Then, one day, Emily said to her, “Miss Norma, it would be sooo cool if you would come to church with us.” Not wanting to directly disappoint her little friend, she said, “Well, Emily, we’ll just have to be cool another time. I can’t go to church with you this weekend.” This didn’t put the little girl off and she continued weekly to invite Ms. McCorvey to church. Ronda heard her daughter pray daily, “Dear God, please don’t let any babies be killed and make it so that abortion will end. And help Miss Norma to come to Jesus.” Though her mother tried to tell her that there was no guarantee of Ms. McCorvey coming to Christ, Emily was convinced, “She’s going to come to know Jesus, mama.” And she persisted in inviting Ms. McCorvey to church until—tired of saying no to her little friend—she agreed to go.
It was during that service at the Hillcrest church that she came to faith under the preaching of Pastor Morris Sheats. Recalling her step forward during an altar call, she writes:
When I reached Pastor Sheats, I saw Jesus in his eyes. It made me feel so incredibly sorry for all my sins, especially for my role in legalizing abortion… Finally, I stopped crying and broke into the biggest smile of my life. I no longer felt the pressure of my sin pushing down on my shoulders. The release was so quick that I felt like I could almost float outside.
She goes on to recall how she eventually came to see abortion for what it is: a sin against God. “‘I’m one hundred percent sold out to Jesus and one hundred percent pro-life,” I like to say. “No exceptions. No compromise.’”
The title of the book—Won by Love—is significant, for that is how she was drawn to Christ. Though the volunteers at OR were supposedly her enemies she marvelled at the love displayed toward her. And because a group of people prioritised the worship of God and, consequently, lived counterculturally she came to faith in Christ. Now, the very person who was most famous for being pro-abortion is a born again pro-life activist!
God’s priority is to be worshipped and, when we make that our priority, we begin to impact the society in which we live. We must never forget that the church is all about worship. And worship is about God being central in every aspect of life.
The Fulfilment of God’s Promise
The miracle in 4:25-5:32 was the fulfilment of God’s promise. The name “Seth,” as noted above, means ‘appointed’ and speaks of being appointed as a substitute. Though Seth was not the ultimate fulfilment of the promise in Genesis 3:15 he was the forerunner, for it was through the line of Seth that Christ would come. And eventually, “when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Galatians 4:4). Thank God that He is faithful to His Word! He promised to send Messiah through the seed of the woman and He fulfilled that promise!
We should remember, too, that the promise was based on a ‘longer’ promise, one that was made in eternity pass—“the everlasting covenant” (Hebrews 13:20; cf. 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:1-2). The promised was made long before Adam fell, long before Cain apostatised. And Jesus Christ was the ultimate fulfilment of that promise.
The principle is clear: we should take heart in the Great Commission. God has made a promise that He will be exalted in the earth despite the rebellion of man (Psalm 46; 67). I know the evil in the world around us. I hear the same news as everyone else. I understand that society is rebellious and reprobate. And I sometimes wonder whether the gospel truly will conquer the nations. But we need not wonder for God has made a promise. And He cannot lie: what He says must and will come to pass.
The Fruit of God’s Power
The miracle, moreover, was the fruit of God’s power. When Eve gave birth to her new son, she named him Seth, “for God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew” (4:25). This is significant in light of her attitude when Cain was born. At Cain’s birth, she said, “I have gotten a man from the Lord” (Genesis 4:1). Literally, this reads, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” It seems that Eve wanted to claim some of the credit for Cain’s birth—the Lord had simply helped her. But when Seth was born she claimed no credit: God had done all the work.
There is an horrific phrase in Christendom today which says, “God helps those who help themselves.” This is a phrase—along with “Cleanliness is next to godliness”—coined by Benjamin Franklin, a Christ-rejecting deist. God does not help those who help themselves; he helps those who, like Enos, recognise that they are frail and helpless.
We should learn from Eve: we can take no credit for God’s gifts to us. Salvation is by the grace of God alone. “Salvation is of the Lord,” said Jonah (Jonah 2:9). And Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16). The gospel is God’s power unto salvation, not our manmade methods. Salvation is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy” (Titus 3:5). And, “12as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). “8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that [faith] not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is all of the Lord and He, therefore, receives all the glory for it. There is nothing in which we can boast or claim credit.
Perhaps the most important lesson that we can teach our kids is that they are Enos: helpless apart from God’s powerful and amazing grace. I recently had lunch with a missionary who grew up in Alabama. Recalling his days in high school in the 1950s and 1960s he told me that there was always one poem that you could count on being read at graduation: the poem Invictus (“Unconquerable”) by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903). The words—particularly the two closing lines—of the poem may be familiar to some:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.
My friend recalled how, during the 50s and 60s, parents in the United States taught their children to simply “pick themselves up by their bootstraps,” telling them, “You are the master of your own fate.” Little wonder, then, that America has, spiritually and morally, gone to the dogs!
We cannot (or should not) teach people that “God helps those who help themselves,” for that is quite simply untrue! God only “helps” those who understand that they cannot help themselves.
I am convinced that our man-centred soteriology is largely the reason that the church is ineffectual. Commenting on the ineffectualness of the church in America, R.C. Sproul wrote, “I doubt if there has been a period in all of Christian history when so many Christians are so ineffectual in shaping the culture in which they live as is true right now in the United States.” He believes that this is the case because the church has embraced man-centred philosophies. I would add that the church has embraced a man-centred doctrine of salvation.
The church of the 21st century needs a great, big God and a very puny man, graced by so great salvation. God is great; man is small; salvation is unspeakable by the miraculous grace of God. We need to rediscover and recapture the glorious gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation.
I recently received an e-mail from a church advertising how they conduct their services. For the first twenty minutes you are invited to gather with people, have coffee or read the Sunday newspaper (I can hardly image in worse way to prepare for worship than reading the newspaper!). This would prepare ‘worshippers’ for the long, 20-minute service.
I don’t think that there is any premium on really long preaching. But neither is there any premium on really short preaching. There is premium on God-centred, biblical preaching, which points people to the God who is. If such preaching takes two hours, so be it! Newspapers and short services to not build churches; God uses a Christ-centred gospel to create and build Christians. And it is to this gospel that we must return.
The Fountainhead of God’s Plan
We see also that the miracle was the fountainhead of God’s plan. It was not the ultimate fulfilment of that plan but it was the beginning. And we see that—despite the sin of man—God’s plan was right on schedule:
This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth:
This chapter records the genealogy of Adam. The section is prefaced by an interesting phrase, “This is the book of the generations of Adam.” This phrase is what we call a superscription. A subscription in the Bible is used to conclude and to sum up what has been said. A superscription, on the other hand, is employed to introduce what will be said. Moses utilises superscriptions throughout the Book of Genesis to introduce the material with which he will deal next. In 2:4, for instance, we read of “the generations of the heavens and of the earth.” Then, from 2:4 onwards, Moses deals with the created order and how it functioned. Now, he will begin dealing with the genealogy of Adam. In 6:9, he introduces a new section; this time dealing with Noah and his family. In 10:1, he introduces the genealogy of Noah’s sons. In each of these cases, he uses the term “the generations of” to describe what will follow next. The phrase is used a total of 11 times in Genesis (2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10, 27; 25:12, 19; 36:1, 9; 37:2).
Though the phrase “the generations of” is found these 11 times, 5:1 is the only time that we read of a “book” of the generations of someone. Most likely, Moses had at hand an actual document from the time of Noah—perhaps even earlier—which Noah had taken with him on the ark to preserve the genealogy of the godly line. There is no record anywhere from 5:1 onwards of Cain’s line because his line was not preserved. It was only Seth’s line that was preserved through the flood and, therefore, Moses had access only to that document (though he did record a brief history of Cain’s line in 4:16-24).
What we have in the fifth chapter of Genesis, then, is the fountainhead of God’s seed on this earth. It was through this line that Christ would come; from this line that all the families of the earth would be blessed. Sadly, however, this is also a record of the fountainhead of sin in the world. Sin was brought into the world through Adam and perpetuated through his generation. Even after the ungodly were destroyed in the flood and Noah and his family came out and worshipped God, God said, “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21). Interestingly, this is the same thing that He said of man when He decided to send the flood (Genesis 6:5). Even though this godly line passed from generation to generation the image of God, it was something of a deformed image: Adam “begat a son in his own likeness” (emphasis added). Thus, everyone born into this world is a sinner by nature—even though many sinners will experience God’s saving grace.
Nevertheless, Seth became the forerunner of all that God would do in this world. Though Adam and Eve fell, they still produced a godly line by the grace of God. Though each individual in the godly line—with the sole exception of Enoch—was said to have “died” (5:5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20 27, 31), there is no mention anywhere of death in Cain’s line (cf. 4:16-24). This, of course, does not mean that no one in Cain’s line died (in fact, his entire line was wiped out in the flood). Why, then, is death not mentioned in Cain’s descendents? I cannot provide all the answers to that question but one thing seems clear: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15). In stark contrast, we read, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 33:11). There is a sense—harsh as this may sound—in which God pays no attention when a lost person dies. You see, the death of a lost one is ultimately insignificant, for the one who dies rejecting Christ simply proves that his or her entire life was a failure. I recently read a list of 500 billionaires in the world today. As I read through the names a simply thought struck me: without Christ, these individuals are nothing! Bill Gates is worth some $4.5 billion: if he dies without Christ his life will have been absolutely insignificant. Thus, God takes no pleasure in the death of a lost person; but the death of a believer is precious to Him.
And so, although Adam and Eve were the fountainhead of sin in the world, they were also the fountainhead—humanly speaking—of grace in the world. This should give us great encouragement as we realise our fallenness before God: we should realise that God’s amazing grace can still be manifested in our fallen lives. Nothing will thwart God’s plan; the seed of the serpent will not win! Thank God for His unspeakable gift!
The Faithfulness of God’s Preservation
The godly line did not end with Seth; it continued from generation to generation. Godly Adam produced godly Seth, who produced godly Enos, who produced godly Cainan (not to be confused with ungodly Cain), who produced godly Mahalaleel, who produced godly Jared, who produced godly Enoch, who produced godly Methuselah, who produced godly Lamech (not to be confused with the ungodly Lamech on Cain’s line), who produced godly Noah (5:1-32).
This selective genealogy is a testimony to the faithfulness of God’s preservation. The godly line continued after the flood through Shem, from whom came Abraham, from whom came Judah, from whom came David, from whom came Christ. The genealogy, then, is a testimony to the fact that God preserved His godly people even through the greatest catastrophe known to men: the flood!
Believer, be encouraged! The church has been through many catastrophes throughout history but God has always preserved her. God’s miraculous work will never fail; even setbacks are sovereign setbacks! Amazingly, God’s preservation of His godly line continued through one family, which eventually impacted the world for the gospel. We do not need to wait for mass conversions before the world will be impacted; each Christian family must first concentrate on raising a godly seed and then we may see God work mightily in this world.
When Norma McCorvey was at a book signing once, Flip Benham arrived and, from the back of the crowd, raised his hand and asked, “Miss Norma, since you won your case in the Supreme Court, 35 million babies have been killed. Their blood is on your hands; do you feel at all guilty?” The book signing was quickly closed and the clashes between Ms. McCorvey and Mr. Benham continued frequently thereafter. One day, Mr. Benham went to Ms. McCorvey and said, “Miss Norma, I need to ask your forgiveness.” He confessed that—though he still considered her guilty for the murders of all those babies—he had been out-of-line in the way that he approached the matter. That was one of the first things that got Ms. McCorvey thinking. It was soon after that that she met Ronda and Emily. Through her friendships with Ronda and Flip Benham, Ms. McCorvey came to see that even they were sinners saved by the grace of God. It was then that that grace became a reality to her. Operation Rescue occupied the premises next door to the clinic only for about a year, but it was all the time God needed to save one of His chosen ones.
The salvation of Norma McCorvey was miraculous. But no more miraculous than the salvation of Flip Benham or Ronda Mackey. The gospel touched one life, then another, then another. And one-by-one God’s grace touched hearts and lives.
Two days after the Roe vs. Wade case involving Norma McCorvey another case came before the Supreme Court. Through this second court case (Doe vs. Bolton) abortion was legalised nationwide in America, even in the ninth month. To cut a long story short, the “Doe” involved in Doe vs. Bolton (Sandra Cano) was also saved some years later! The two women humanly responsible for legalised abortion in America have both come to faith in Christ! Perhaps you are thinking, “There is no way that God can forgive me.” Tell that to Norma McCorvey! God is gracious and His grace is powerful enough to save the most wicked, hardened sinner in this world! Unbeliever, turn to Christ and He will save you. Believer, be encouraged that God can save those whom you deem to be beyond hope. Believe God for that miracle.