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Pervasiveness of Sin and the Persevering Grace of God

Date: 10 March 2024, 9.30 am

Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan Sermon Text: Genesis 4:1-26

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Transcript

Introduction

Blessed Sunday morning to everyone, both here in Henderson and those participating online.


If you are new to Hermon, in 2024, we have decided that it would be beneficial for all of us to journey through the book of Genesis. 30 sermons have been set aside for Genesis and we have just covered 3 of them last month.


I’ve been blessed by the 3 sermons so far – appreciating the wonderful work of creation by God, His unique relationship with Adam and Eve and how there is reason for hope even in the fall of man due to sin.


Though Genesis 3 ended on a terrible note, yet we see hints of grace and hope even in such dark times.


Even as Adam and Eve were banished from Eden, God graciously made and clothed them with garments of skin.


God gave a prophesy also that though Satan will bruise the heel of the seed of the woman, that woman’s offspring will bruise Satan’s head. Satan will ultimately be utterly defeated.


Today, we continue this journey through Gensis 4 and I’ve titled the sermon - Pervasiveness of Sin and the Persevering Grace of God.


We will see that sin will extend from just 1 couple to the whole of the human race and not only will it be pervasive, it will actually become exponentially worst.


Yet, alongside the depravity of man, God’s grace perseveres. God’s plan for the redemption of human race will not be derailed. His blueprint for salvation continues to unfold.


As I was preparing for this sermon, I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal Magazine about the controversy surrounding this painting. It is entitled ‘Flesh & Spirit’ by an American artist. It sold for $30.7 million in 2018.


It was put on sale by Belinda the daughter of the late Dolores Neumann. After the sale, Belinda sued her father, Hubert who has been separated from her mother.


The reason is that he had obtained a court order to unsuccessfully block the sale and that caused the painting to be sold as less than the ideal price.


The article then elaborated that this family feud has been going on for some time. It all started when Delores passed away in 2016 and her will was read.


The family estate is estimated at US$1 billion. According to 1 daughter, Melissa, the expectation was that all the 3 daughters of Delores were to inherit equally the family wealth.


Instead, when the will was read out, one sister Kristina was given 10% of the estate, Melissa was given US$1 million and the rest went to Belinda. Hubert was totally cut off from the will.


Since then, it was reported that the family has amassed at least 18 lawsuits amongst them. There have been claims and counter-claims in New York’s criminal, civil and family courts.  


Even 911 had to be called as there was incidences of physical confrontation between family members.


There may not have been any murders, but I’m sure character assassination is par for the course in the lawsuits. And all that stems from greed, jealously and self-serving interest.


21st Century New York is worlds away from Genesis 4, but it seems, we humans have not evolved at all.


Let’s begin our journey through the first 16 verses of Genesis 4. I’ve entitled it the death reality of sin.


The death reality of sin (v1-16)

Remember in Gen 3, Satan tricked Adam and Eve that God lied about death as a consequence of taking the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.


At the end of Gen 3, they are banished from Eden and thus the tree of life. They are excluded from the blessed rest which God intended for them in Eden.


Now in Gen 4, the first human death is experienced and significantly, it is not when old age comes, but it is cut short by murder.


Adam and Eve and all of humankind begin to face with the reality of God’s punishment for sin. God’s Word proves true.


In both the sermon’s main points today, I am attempting to group what we can learn from the text using the sermon title. It will either be under the heading of ‘Sin’ or the heading of ‘Grace’.


Let’s begin to explore these first 16 verses under the heading of ‘Sin’ first.


1.Sin

Let’s look at v3-5. Here it is described for us the worship experience of Cain and Abel. And we see that God had regard for Abel and his offering but not for Cain and his offering.


Moses who wrote Genesis, did not give us any explicit reason for God’s non-acceptance of Cain’s offering. But we can see 2 hints.


Firstly, Cain’s offering description is short with no elaboration. However, Abel’s has the mention that he brought the firstborn of the flock and their fat portions.


Secondly, we sense Cain’s arrogance and his self-centeredness towards his offering. When God did not accept his offering, he got angry with God.


That’s not the response of a worshipper with the right attitude isn’t it? Cain instead should have been contrite and fearful that he had offended God.


The New Testament helps clear all doubts that Cain’s sacrifice was not pleasing to God.  


Heb 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.

1 Jn 3:12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.

Jude 11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion.

In Hebrews 11, it was Abel’s faith that pleased God. So we can infer that Cain just went through the motions and God, who is all knowing, knew that Cain’s heart was not right. Cain had no trust and belief in God.  


Jesus condemned the Pharisees in Matthew 18, quoting Isaiah, Jesus said of the religious leaders – you hypocrites, you honour me with your lips, but your heart is far from me.


In 1 John 3, we are instructed, don’t follow Cain for his deeds were evil while Abel’s was righteous. Both Cain’s lack of faith and his murder of Abel was displeasing to God.  


In Jude, Cain is held up as a negative example of how not to live our lives. To walk worthy of our calling as believers is not to walk as Cain did.


For a more comprehensive understanding of why God rejected Cain’s offering, please read our Herald editorial.


Church, we need to take heed about how we come to worship God today. Have we in faith, given God the sacrifice of praise that is due to His Name?


What has been our heart’s attitude as we came to service this morning? Are we here, just to tick off our Sunday to-do list? May we not be a modern Pharisee.

 

Or, are we saying to God, you have to accept what I can offer. Cut me some slack. Don’t ask too much.. Learn to accept my ‘shrimps’ as I’m not willing to  give you ‘lobster’ quality.


Jesus said in Mt 5 -


Mt 5:23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Strong words from Jesus. Our sacrifice of worship will not be accepted if we have not put right the wrongs, we know we have done to our fellow believers.


Is our worship of God confined to just the Sunday morning service? Or are our lives, from Monday to Saturday also an act of worship?


Not sure about you, but if I scrutinize my week, I think on many days, I flirt with being an idol worshipper – work and self-indulgences fill my primary focus and desires.


May the New Testament warnings about not following Cain be a timely reminder today for us to be circumspect in our worship of God.


We next look at v8-12. As mentioned earlier, here is the first death in the fallen world.


Not only does Cain have no love for God, he, has no love for family as well. So vertically and horizontally he is breaking relationships.


Here we see the escalation of Cain’s sin. It began with envy, this led to rage and then to murder.


Is not the murder of another who is made in the image of God an attack on the Creator?


And so we come to the this infamous saying that is still being used today – am I my brother’s keeper. Cain shirks all responsibility for his sibling.


But Scripture says, do not walk in the way of Cain. Instead live out Gal 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.


We are to be our brother and our sister’s keeper. And in reference to Matthew 5, then, we should not burden our brethren by refusing to right any wrongs we have done.


And so, in v11-12, we observe God’s sentence on Cain. We see it has echoes from Genesis 3.


Now, not just by the sweat of his brow, Cain will farm the land but now the land itself will not be fruitful in its yield.


Not only are humans banished from Eden, now Cain will be a fugitive and a wanderer. To top the banishment of Eden, Cain will now be alienated from God’s people.


And Scripture shows us how evil Cain’s heart was. His reply to God’s punishment was – God it is unfair. This is too much for me to bear.


We can see this attitude of defiance clearer when we contrast it with what the thief on the cross said to Jesus :


Lk 23:40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Accepting that our punishment by God is just and fair is the mark of a repentant heart.  


Church, Gen 4 shows us the pervasiveness of sin. And how the reality of death is the consequence of our sin.


There is envy and rage towards our fellow image-bearers and arrogance and disobedience towards God.

 

2.  Grace

Yet in such dark times, we see the persevering grace of God.


Chapter 4 is bracketed by God’s grace. And it is emphasized in the faith of Eve.


Gen 4:1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.”

Gen 4:25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.”

Adam and Eve are banished from Eden. Yet they still have the mandate to multiply and fill the earth and be God’s stewards.


There is also the promise that the offspring of the woman will bruise the head of the serpent.


And so, Eve acknowledges that God has graciously blessed them to fulfil His mandate. By faith, Eve testifies ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.’


We will come back to v25 in the next section.


Church, the fact that grace brackets Gen 4 gives us the picture that God can and desires to fulfil His purposes in and through sinful humanity.


Let’s now see how Gen 4 records for us God’s grace and mercy in His interactions with Cain.


Look at how patiently God is, trying to give Cain an opportunity not to yield to sin in v6-7. He warns Cain, ‘sin is crouching at your door.’ He encourages Cain, ‘but you must rule over it.’


James gives an explanation on what is happening in Cain’s heart -


Jas 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

And the comfort Scripture gives for withstanding evil temptations is found in


1 Cor 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Even after Cain yielded to temptation and murdered Abel, God was gracious to Cain in v15. The murderer now, is afraid of being murdered.


So, God graciously put a mark on Cain.


Not a mark of stigma but a mark of protection. In a sense God now becomes Cain’s protector.


What gracious mercy God has shown to Cain. To Cain, who is utterly unrepentant.


Church, this character of God has not change. He is wonderfully and abundantly gracious, patient, and merciful.


Today, if you recognize Cain in yourself. If you acknowledge that you have wronged God? See how graciously God dealt with Cain. If you come to Him, He will deal with you in the same way.


For those of us who struggle with the notion that God is strict and that His justice is swift. May the Spirit open our eyes to see the many opportunities God has given for us for repentance.


Even as we grapple with death as a reality of sin, we must also recognise God’s persevering grace towards us.


As we live in a sin-stained world, our comfort is that His mercies are new every morning, great is His faithfulness (Lam 3:22-23).


The life-giving reality of salvation (v17-26)

Recently, I read online and article about a woman being sentenced to four-and-a-half years' jail for covering up her son's rape and sexual abuse of his sister for seven years.


According to the article, the son's offences began in 2010, when the girl was only five years old. The mother knew of the abuse and caught her son in the act of rape, but she did not make a police report.


The case for the son concluded in 2020, where he was sentenced to 11-and-a-half years’ jail and seven strokes of the cane for the statutory rape and molest of his sister.


What was very worrying was this statement in the article – “At the time, a report by an Institute of Mental Health psychiatrist showed that Japanese pornographic cartoons that the son had watched, which featured incest, led him to think that it was all right to have sex with his sister.”


Imagine, to a certain segment of society today, such sexual deviation is considered normal.


In the 2nd half of Gen 4, we now turn to observe the line of Cain. And to examine how the pervasiveness of sin, continues even to this day.


1.  Sin

Remember the hint of the Gospel of salvation in Gen 3:15. What we also see there is that there will be a family line from the Satan and another line from the woman.


In Moses giving us the genealogy of Cain in Gen 4 and Seth in Gen 5, I submit that these are the 2 lines that are forming out of Gen 3:15.


And in the New Testament, these same 2 lines are those that belong to God and those that don’t:


1 Jn 3:10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

And as we observe the genealogy of Cain, we see that Lamech is highlighted. If Cain is evil, Lamech seem to have as his life goal to up Cain.


3 things we observe are said about Lamech. 


Firstly, we see that he, like Cain murdered someone. Lamech boast in song to his wives, I killed a young man for wounding me (v23-24).


In the original text, ‘wounding’ can also be translated ‘bruise’, and ‘young man’ can be translated as ‘child/ boy’.


It is to bring out the exaggerated response of Lamech. And thus, adds to our disgust towards his boasting.


Secondly, remember God had already created the institution of marriage. That it was to be a monogamous relationship, for the husband and the wife are to be one flesh.


Though the Old Testament has no explicit condemnation on polygamy -  Abraham and David, all had more than 1 wife, I submit there is a hint here that Lamech is pushing the boundaries.  


Commenting on this, Ross Allen writes “There was bigamy, a problem that society would face for ages to come. Malachi, though, reminded the people of his age that God originally made man and woman as one, so that there might be a godly seed (Mal 2:15). The prophet’s message based on Genesis was a warning for the people to put away their foreign wives.


Thirdly, what Cain received from God as a mark of protection, now Lamech wears it as a badge of honour. He arrogantly says vengeance for him is now not 7 times, but 77 times.


Some have remarked that Jesus had Lamech’s boast in mind when he taught about forgiveness in Mt 18:22. We are to forgive our brothers. Not 7 times but seventy times seven.


Today, if we say we are to be our brother’s keeper, then a relevant application is for us to mean what we say in the Lord’s prayer. May we truly walk worthy of our calling and pray, Lord, forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.  


Church, we are those who identify with the line of Seth and not of Cain right?


Let us then pray that the Holy Spirit will help us forgive others. That we be the total opposite of Lamech. Instead of vengeance, there is forgiveness.


The pervasiveness of sin found in the line of Cain and Lamech is very much ingrain in our modern society. Our newspapers are reliable evidence of that.


Thus, we can only acknowledge that we cannot save ourselves. There is a need for the life-giving reality of salvation.  


2.  Grace

Even as the lineage of Cain is negatively compared with that of Seth, we see God’s persevering grace upon even unrepentant man.


When we look closely at v19-24, we see the common grace of God upon mankind.

In v20, we see the knowledge of tent-making and rearing livestock. V21, they learnt now to make music. V22 to fashion instruments of bronze and iron.


To each invention, Scripture attributes to them the accolades ‘the father of’.


According to Derek Kidner  “The phrase he was the father of all such acknowledges the debt and prepares us to accept for ourselves a similar indebtedness to secular enterprise; for the Bible nowhere teaches that the godly should have all the gifts. At the same time we are saved from over-valuing these skills: the family of Lamech could handle its environment but not itself.”


Today, we are no different. Through the technological advancement of mankind, we all enjoy the comforts of live-streamed Sunday Service and the conveniences of our mobile phone.


But it is a reminder that for all of society’s advancement, we cannot save ourselves. Fundamentally only God can restore and reconcile us to Himself.


Only God has the solution for us to enter the rest that He provided in Eden for Adam and Eve before the fall.


As I shared in the earlier segment, God’s grace brackets Gen 4.


If the promise of Gen 3:15 is to happen, then it seems to have become Mission Impossible.


Abel is murdered and Cain has been banished.


But God graciously provided the solution in the birth of Seth.


And again Eve displays her faith in God for she says “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.”


Eve’s faith is seen even clearer in the KJV. She references Gen 3:15 by using the word – another seed.  


Gen 4:25 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. (KJV)

Eve describes in v1 that she has ‘gotten’ Cain. But now she declares Seth has been ‘appointed’.


This is significant for in Gen 5 we will see that Seth line will end with Noah whom we know is the herald of righteousness.


And for us who have gone through Luke’s Gospel. The line of Seth is so significant.


As we prepare for the sermon next week on Gen 5, read through the genealogy of Jesus found in Luke 3 and see for yourselves the significance of Seth.


Finally, with the arrival of Seth, Scripture says, in the midst of fallen humanity, God has preserved a remnant who will persevere in worshipping Him.


In the days of Seth, people began to call upon the name of the Lord.


The Lord is the covenant name of God. This is Yahweh. The name that God reveals to Moses in Exodus.


Paul uses this same phrase in 1 Corinthians 1. 


1 Cor 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.

In the days of Seth, to call upon the name of the Lord is to identify with Yahweh. To see Him as Saviour and Master.


It is to identify with His character and to worship Him.


Church, in today’s context, it is to live lives of worship and witness for Jesus. Jesus who is the exact imprint of God and who upholds the universe by the power of His word.


This Jesus, we call Him Redeemer and Lord.


And like the line of Seth, we continue to live amongst those from the line of Cain. For they continue to advance mankind in terms of technology and innovation.


The evidence of the line of Cain is to remind us that mankind cannot save ourselves.


Only the grace of God in Christ Jesus can save us from the pervasiveness of sin.

Conclusion

May I end with this quote from Hebrews 12.


Heb 12:24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

The blood of Abel screams for revenge. The blood of Jesus however proclaims forgiveness and atonement.


Church, as believers we have been touched by the precious blood of Jesus.


As redeemed sinners, may our sacrifice of praise be a sweet fragrant offering pleasing in His sight.


And may our lives of worship, enable us to be His channel of His grace. Shining our Christ-light in our corner of society, bringing the hope and the joy of the Lord to others.

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