Purpose and Righteousness in a Sinful World

After Adam and Eve rebelled against God because of their own self-interest, they had two sons. Because of jealousy (also self-interest), one son murdered the other. People multiplied on the earth. God saw that people had become evil. In fact, In Genesis 6:5, we read that God saw that every inclination in the heart of humankind was only evil all of the time. If, up to this point, evil and wickedness had been described as self-interest, then we should presume that the evil inclinations of the heart mentioned here refer specifically to self-interest.



God came to Noah and his family, instructed them to build an ark and saved them from the coming wrath. When we get to chapter 9, the floods have subsided and Noah’s family is starting fresh.

This week, we celebrate mothers. In celebrating mothers, we celebrate all of human life. Without moms, the earth cannot be filled with God’s image. This means that without moms, a supernatural God is not revealed in a natural world. When it comes to humanity being the image of God, there is something both natural and supernatural about his existence. I say this simply to say that moms are out of this world. Without moms, humanity would never be able to fulfill its purpose in this imperfect world. What is our purpose? Since we do not currently live in the circumstance of God’s perfect garden, how much does God actually entrust to us? Since we have all sinned and since we are sinful, surely God would give us a lesser position on this earth.

Genesis 9:1-7 HCSB

God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear and terror of you will be in every living creature on the earth, every bird of the sky, every creature that crawls on the ground, and all the fish of the sea. They are placed under your authority. Every living creature will be food for you; as I gave the green plants, I have given you everything. However, you must not eat meat with its lifeblood in it. I will require the life of every animal and every man for your life and your blood. I will require the life of each man’s brother for a man’s life.

Whoever sheds man’s blood,

his blood will be shed by man,

for God made man in His image.

But you, be fruitful and multiply; spread out over the earth and multiply on it.”

God re-establishes humanity’s purpose

Up to this point in Scripture, we have seen the sinfulness of humankind. In fact, all people became wicked according to God’s standard. As we observe the world in our day, it is painfully obvious that humanity still lives in rebellion toward God. There is still sin. Because there is still sin and selfishness, there is still wickedness in the world. Adam and Eve were given their purpose in the context of perfection. Since we are in a world of sinfulness, what kind of purpose could we possibly have? What is the purpose of a sinful person?

In the above passage of Scripture, the answer is more than clear. In fact, after Noah and his family step off of the ark, God re-establishes the purpose that he gave people in the beginning. He established this purpose with Adam and Eve when He created them. He established this purpose with Adam and Eve after thy rebelled. Again, despite all of the sinfulness of humankind, God re-establishes is own purpose for people with Noah and Noah’s family. Adam and Eve, in their perfection, were to fill the earth with God’s image. Noah and his family, in their sinfulness, were to fill the earth with God’s image. Adam and Eve, in their perfection, were given authority over creation to cultivate it. Noah and his family, in their sinfulness, were given authority over creation to cultivate it.

Here, we learn something very important about God. He does not change. People rebelled against Him over and over again, from Adam to Lamech (Noah’s Father), still God gives the same holy purpose that He gave to Adam and Eve in the beginning. If God does not change, then we have the same purpose now and will have the same purpose forevermore.

An obvious and convicting question arises when we think about the unchanging nature of God and the purpose that He has always given: Why do we so often distract ourselves from the purpose of filling the earth with God’s image (both by multiplication and now evangelism) and of cultivating the earth?

Previously (when we looked at Genesis 1 together), we discovered that to fill the earth with God’s image is to fill the earth with worship to God. We, ourselves, often allow worldly things like work, athletics, entertainment, personal comfort and personal preference keep us from living in worship to God. If we have allowed anything to keep us from worshipping God with our lives, how can we ever live according to our God given purpose to fill the whole earth with worship to God? The answer is simple, we cannot. Because of this, I find that if someone does not practice evangelism, it is evidence that he or she does not worship God. In the context of a sinful, imperfect world, evangelism is the way in which we fulfill the purpose that God gave people in the beginning: to fill the earth with God’s image. If those who are not in Christ are in sin. Then it is those who are in Christ about whom the image of God is incomplete or marred. If that image is incomplete and God has always given the responsibility of multiplying His image to His people, then we must practice evangelism to fulfill the purpose that God has given, and there doesn’t seem to be a legitimate way around that idea. For clarity’s sake, I must add that evangelism is the inviting of others to believe in Christ and surrender to the Lordship of Christ.

When we worship God, God leads us to fulfill His purpose for our lives. As we learned in Genesis 1, this design applies specifically to the community of faith. While evangelism may be important for the individual, it is necessary to practice as both the local church and the universal church.

God views the righteous as still bearing His image

In chapter six, God’s sees that the whole earth has become wicked and that every intention of the human heart is evil. It grieves His heart, much like the grief we saw with the two witnesses in Revelation and the grief we saw from Jesus as He looked over the sins of Jerusalem. God does not change.

It was time for judgment and only one family was found to be righteous and worthy of saving. In chapter six, verse 9, this righteousness was defined for us: Noah was blameless. This blamelessness was not because Noah was better than everyone else. He was also a sinner and Scripture is very specific that all the people of the earth had corrupted their ways. After the flood subsides, we even witness Noah becoming drunk (which is the opposite of submission only to God). God knew Noah’s heart! He knew this would happen!

If, in Noah’s heart, he had the same selfish tendencies that everyone else had, what could it possibly mean to anyone to be blameless or righteous before God? For Noah, specifically in chapter six, verse nine, it was simply that he walked with God. In a sinful world, being righteous does not mean that we get everything right, that we are perfect, that we act a certain way, or keep a certain set of rules perfectly. It means we simply walk with God. We become open to God’s sanctification in our lives and we follow Him despite our imperfections. When we walk with God, God views us as still bearing His image. In fact, sanctification is the process of God restoring His perfect image within and upon us.

As we live on this earth, there is a very important question that we must ask: Will we simply walk with God, or will we be concerned with self? To walk with God is to walk in humility. To be concerned with self is to try to look perfect. To walk with God is to be honest about mistakes made. To be concerned with self is to always have to be correct or in first place. Walking with God requires us to deny our own selfish ambition. What it does not require is that we become perfect on our own power. Any religious or moral teaching that even insinuates otherwise must be false because God does not depend on people.

God desires righteous life, not death

God grieved as he brought about the consequences of humanity’s wickedness. It is amazing for me to think that, even when God flooded the earth, He did so as He grieved. He did not flood the earth out of contempt, but with great concern. He was not being malicious, but was carrying out just punishment for wickedness. God is just, but He does not desire death for any person.

After the flood subsided, and after His punishment had been carried out, God re-issued His purpose for humanity even in the context of a fallen and sinful world. What God desires is the opposite of death. He desires righteous life: a life in which people are simply walking with Him. Knowing that Noah had the same sinfulness in his life as the rest of the world did before the flood, we can know that God is good, even offering this opportunity (salvation and sanctification) to the most wicked of people.

If God is this way and we are made into His image, then we, also, ought not condemn others, but offer the opportunity for them, no matter how wicked they seem to be, to walk beside us with God.

Righteousness is not, and can never be, about how good we are (it is selfish to think this way and we would never measure up), it is about the goodness of the One with whom we walk.

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