The Beginning of The Church

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country…..And I will make of you a great nation….And you will be a blessing….by you all the families of the earth will bless themselves.”          Genesis 12:1-3

Plenty of people were saved before Abraham was born.  And they were members of what we call the invisible church.  But there was no visible  organization in those days such as we ordinarily think of as a church.

God wanted such an organization, made up of people from every nation on earth.  But in order to reach every nation He naturally had to begin with one nation.  They, in turn, would be God’s means of reaching others.  They would be what God calls “kingdom of priests.”  And in order to organize this first kingdom of priests, God called a single individual out of heathendom.  That is why we call this man “the father of all believers” whether they descended from him physically or follow in the footsteps of his faith.  (Galatians 3:7, 28, 29)

Unhappily, that first nation upon whom God showed such special kindness thought that all this favor was for their own sake, and not to be shared with the rest of the world.  So God took away their special status and gave it to others.

The church today must remember constantly that it is now her turn to be a “kingdom of priests” (I Peter 2:9) for the entire world.  And whenever a church fails to be a blessing to the world, God will take away her privileged place and give it to others.  The church has been separated from the world so that it can be a blessing to it.

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The Beginning of Migrations

So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.              Genesis 11:8

When God made Adam and Eve, He intended that the human race would eventually populate the entire earth.  This is evident in the command that He gave, to multiply and to develop the world.  But sin came and brought a temporary interruption of that plan with the flood.

Following the flood, God repeated the command to reproduce and subdue the earth to Noah, the new “father” of the human race.  But this time God had a second reason for wanting man to spread around the world.  When people are sinners, and men had become sinners because of the fall, any concentration of persons or authority lends itself to all kinds of mischief.  As God states the matter in Genesis 11:6, there is no limit to the  iniquity of man’s imagination or his united power in a totalitarian society.  So it was essentially an act of mercy when God broke up the conspiracy at Babel.

There is a New Testament counterpart to this Old Testament story.  After Pentecost came with its gift of “tongues” as a solution to the confusion of languages at Babel,  God’s children were supposed to go into all the world and preach the gospel in all of earth’s dialects.  But they were reluctant to move.  Christians find it too comfortable to be with fellow Christians.  So God had to push them out, scattering them forcibly by means of painful persecution.  “And they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word.”  (Acts 8:4)

This spread of the gospel by scattering people has been going on ever since, by means of wars, government oppression, economic conditions, search of health and work, or schooling.  The important question is whether we take our faith with us when we move.

 

The Beginning of Nations

The sons of Noah, who went forth from the ark, were Shem, Ham, and Japheth.  Ham was the father of Canaan…..from these the whole earth was peopled.      Genesis 9:18,19

A few people have the absurd ideas that one of Noah’s sons was black, another white, and the third must have been a kind of mixture to take care of the Indians, Orientals, and all the rest.  We smile at such nonsense, yet we often forget that all the races did descend ultimately from one man, Noah, so that we are all cousins under the skin.

What is more, the entire matter of skin color is so confusing that we do not know who is what.  Noah was almost certainly not white.  Many so-called white people are darker than those we classify as black.  And no anthropologist knows exactly what a race is.  Nothing made Hitler appear more absurd in the eyes of intelligent people that his notion that he knew what a Aryan was, plus his insistence that the Aryans are a superior race.

It is a simple Bible fact that Canaan, the grandson whom Noah prophetically cursed, had nothing to do with black people, for the Canaanites did not live in Africa.  It is also a fact that the Jewish descendants of Shem, who was the most blessed of Noah’s sons, were slaves for hundreds of years.  Even more amazing, they were slaves to descendants of Ham, who was the rascal in Genesis 9:18-29.

The important question is not who is a person’s physical father, but, who is his spiritual father?  (John 1:12, 8:44)

Then Beginning of Government

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter,  day and night, shall not cease.     Genesis 8:22

When Noah and his family stepped out of the ark at the end of the flood, they were beginning the human race for the second time.  That is why God repeated the command He made to Adam.  God commanded that Noah and his family should reproduce and develop the world which God made for man.  In order to make this progress possible God solemnly promised that He would see to it that there is constant law and order in the universe.

But this guarantee of God was not just so that man would be able to depend upon the laws of nature.  God was setting man an example for the orderliness and law that ever ought also to be in human affairs and relationships.  God put the fear of man into the many creatures which are capable of wiping out the human race if it were not for this restraint.  Man, in turn, was expected to establish human governments that would perform this same restraint upon man’s natural hostilities and destructive tendencies toward his fellow men.

Today the lack of respect for the law and government has invaded the very institutions of law and government.  We see highly placed public officials indicted and trust for those in public life sinking to new lows.  Now is a time when society must reexamine the Biblical base upon which it has been built, and men must humbly agree to live in obedience to the God of Noah.  If the present circumstances continue unchecked society itself will self-destruct and that will be horrible.

 

 

The Beginning of Destruction

And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them; behold, I will destroy them with the earth.”    Genesis 6:13

We often say that honesty is the best policy, that crime never pays, that virtue is its own reward, and that your sin will find you out. But this is only relatively true, for the inevitable consequences of good and bad are not always immediate.  God is continually “picking up after us” and cancelling the full results of our folly.  God does not settle His accounts at the end of every day, nor even at the end of every week.

One reason for this is that if God did not postpone and defer the punishment of sin He would have to destroy the world with a flood or some other catastrophe in every generation.  The rioting Frenchmen at the time of the Revolution admitted this fact by their defiant slogan, “After us comes the deluge.”

This kind of prompt justice would make it impossible for God’s cause to make any progress.  God testified to the futility of this procedure at the end of the flood when He said, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of his heart is evil continually.”  (Genesis 8:21)

But what God did do in the great flood is give all men a solemn sample of what is certainly going to happen at the end of history; a reminder that He is only postponing what every generation deserves.  Men who mock at the idea of “the fire next time”  (II Peter 3:3-10) are just adding to their punishment  by presuming upon God’s patience.

The Beginning of Mixed Marriages

The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took to wife such of them as they chose.      Genesis 6:2

There is a popular slogan which says, “If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em.”  This has been a favorite practice of Satan for a long time.

It did not take the devil long to realize that he accomplished very little by killing Abel, for “the blood of the martyrs is always the seed of the church.”  So he quickly changed his tactics to what we call nowadays “the soft sell.”

Members of the godly descendants of Seth — who are referred to in our text as “the sons of God” — began to intermarry with members of Cain’s descendants.  Cain’s family are called “daughters of men” in the Bible simply because they were merely human beings and not the true children of God.

Externally considered, these unions seemed highly successful, for the Bible itself says that the children born from these mixed marriages were “mighty and renowned.”  But spiritually it was the old story of one rotten apple corrupting the whole bushel.  We might think that occasionally it would work the other way, so that a “son of God” wins his unbelieving partner.  Occasionally this does happen.  But this is not the natural result.  And it is very difficult for any one to ask God for a super-natural outcome to such a marriage if he begins matrimony by disobeying so plain a command as II Corinthians 6:14; “Do not be mismated with unbelievers.”

The Bible’s teaching about mixed marriage applies today more than ever before.  Wise people take this message very seriously.

The Beginning of Hope

Enoch walked with God: and then he was not; for God took him.       Genesis 5:24

If is hard for us to put ourselves by imagination back into the situation of the first human beings.  It is almost impossible not to think of them in the light of all that we know today. Unconsciously we have the idea that those who believed in God those days must have died with the firm assurance that they would immediately wake up in a better land, in a more wonderful life.

But what did any of them know about a hereafter?  All that they knew for sure was the fact that inevitably everybody died and their bodies returned to dust.  God had declared that man was mortal, so that was that!  If, unreported in the Bible, God did console them with the promise of a second life after death for those who obeyed Him, they had no evidence of the fact.   Nobody ever returned from the grave.

But one day a certain man of their number, known for his unusual piety, simply “walked right on” into heaven.  So there was something else beyond this life after all!  Death was not the inevitable, certain, and unexceptional thing that they had thought it was.  Enoch had not died.  Enoch did not “go the way of all flesh.”  God took him.

However, even Enoch’s translation offered only a glimmer of hope.  Enoch did not come back from the grave with a new body, in the fashion of our glorious Savior.  And so the whole Old Testament is something of an echo of the melancholy refrain in Genesis 5:  “and he died.”  Only when Jesus died and rose, to die no more, was the triumphant tune changed to sing, “He lives! He lives!”

In two days it is Sunday, the great celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.  It is the festival of hope and faith which Enoch shared already centuries ago.