Genesis 5 is probably one of the most “boring” chapters in the book because it details the descendants of Adam. Yet it’s still an important chapter. It’s important for genealogical purposes, but it’s also important for two other reasons: the clear indication that mankind has lost God’s image in some way and the clear indication that God’s warning of death was serious.
When speaking of the image of God, we speak of it in two theological categories:
- The wide/broad sense: man is a rational being (this distinguishes us from animals).
- The narrow sense: true knowledge of God/original righteousness.
Man is still a rational being, so we still maintain the image of God in this sense, but man no longer maintains true knowledge of God/original righteousness. In this latter sense, man has lost the image of God. We call this original sin—that not only does man no longer have true knowledge of God but he also possesses only the concupiscence (desire/inclination) toward sinful living rather than righteous (right) living.
The indication of this lost image is implied in Genesis 5:1-3. “When God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. Male and female He created them” (vv. 1-2). But now, after the Fall, Adam fathered children “in his own likeness” (v. 3). The likeness of Adam is the lack of original righteousness and true knowledge of God. This is made most explicit as the generations pass when we get into Genesis 6 when God sees “that every intention of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).
Yet before this is made clear in the following chapter, we see it first in Genesis 5 with the theme, “and he died.” At first, this might seem insignificant because we’re used to death, but remember: death is not originally part of the natural order of creation; it is an aberration from God’s design. With the exception of Enoch, who “walked with God, and he was not [found], for God took him,” every son of Adam who fathered their own children died. Seth died, Enosh died, Kenan died, Mahalalel died, Jared died, Methuselah died, Lamech died, and eventually Noah dies (Genesis 9:29). And, of course, eventually their children died too. If there’s anything Genesis 5 makes clear, it’s that people keep dying.
This fact of the Fall of Man continues in our day, of course. Even though we keep making desperate attempts to increase the mortality rate of man through botox injections, plastic surgery, daily exercise, healthy diets, essential oils, scientific progress (even absurd things like figuring out how to upload the human consciousness to a cloud server), medicine, and radical environmentalism, people keep dying. So, is there hope? Yes, but our hope is not in any of these things.
Our hope is in Jesus Christ, the one who died and rose from the dead. If we allow the fear of death to rule our lives, we will eventually find ourselves guided by nihilistic hopelessness, “We’re just born to die. Life is just preparing for death. So, what’s the point?” In a way, there’s some truth to this. Death is inevitable. Even for Christians. (As we like to say in Lutheranism, we prepare our people to die well, which can only be done in Jesus.)
Yet Jesus was also born so He could die, and He knew this. Jesus chose to be born of a virgin, fully human and fully God, so He could die for you. And He also rose again. For you.
In much of my writing and preaching, I find myself always returning to the baptismal promise the Apostle Paul delineates in Romans 6, especially verses 3-5, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? We were buried, therefore, with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”
One day, like Adam and all his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, you and I will die, for we are also descendants of Adam. Yet also one day, you and I shall rise, for we are children of God through Christ Jesus our Lord, the second Adam, who in Baptism has united us to His death and resurrection. In Baptism you have been crucified with Jesus; therefore, you shall also rise when He comes again.
Therefore, St. Paul continues, “We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death He died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God. So, you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:6-11).
In other words, in Baptism, you have died to your sin since Christ “died to sin once for all” on the cross. Theologically, we call this the Old Adam, in which the Old Adam is drowned and original righteousness thus regained. Also, in Baptism, death no longer has dominion over you just as it no longer has dominion over Christ. Therefore, just as Christ now lives forever, so you also shall live forever. Though you and I shall experience earthly death, yet shall we live (John 11:25-26).
People keep dying, but God’s people shall live.
Theology Terms Used
- Wide/Broad Sense of God’s Image: man is a rational being, which distinguishes us from animals.
- Narrow Sense of God’s Image: true knowledge of God/original righteousness, which was lost at the Fall.
- Concupiscence: original sin, in other words, man’s natural inclination toward living in sin rather than original righteousness.
- Original Righteousness: to be right, perfect, utterly without fault.
- Old Adam: original sin.
- Nihilism: the complete rejection of all religious and moral principles and the belief that life is meaningless.