Can man be held accountable for his sinful actions, and yet have Christ act as a substitute for his sins?
Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man (Genesis 9:5–6).
[Jesus Christ] then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many (Hebrews 9:26–28).
Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18–19).
In Genesis 9:5–6, we read that each man will be held responsible for his actions if he kills another human. It is also clear in Scripture that sin will not be held against those who repent of their sin and trust in Christ’s redemptive work on the Cross. It has been asked how men can be held accountable for their own sins, as murder is, and yet Christ can act as a substitute to remove the consequences of sin. The answer comes as we examine the context.
As God is making His covenant with Noah and his descendants in Genesis 9, the institution of capital punishment is given. Man has inherent worth because he is made in the image of God. The civil law given to the Israelites and other passages of Scripture make it clear that each person is accountable for his own actions and their consequences. God sets up the temporal punishments that accompany the violation of these civil laws. Civil authority is given to punish those who break the laws. In the case of Genesis 9, the authority is being given to mankind to execute capital punishment. This is a temporal consequence for a temporal action. We can place this in the category of civil justice.
The murder of another human is not only an offense against man, but also an offense against God. When King David had sinned by having Uriah killed and committing adultery with Bathsheba, he recognized his sin against God:
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight (Psalm 51:2–4).
Although there was a temporal sin, David recognized that all sins are ultimately an offense against a holy God. In Psalm 7:11 we read that “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.”
If a man were to commit murder in our society, he would be violating two laws: the civil law of the government and the holy Law of God (Exodus 20:13). For the act of murder the civil authorities will execute justice through the courts, and the penalty may include capital punishment.
For violating the Law of God, the consequence is much harsher, since the authority is higher. God’s eternal justice demands the penalty of eternal death in hell. Because everyone has sinned against a perfectly holy God (Romans 3:23), every person deserves that just punishment.
However, Jesus Christ died on the Cross, and God’s wrath against sin was poured out on Him. Those who will repent and put their trust in Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the Cross can avoid that judgment and spend an eternity in heaven with God (John 3:16–18). The righteousness of Christ and His sacrifice are imputed to us (credited to our account, though we don’t deserve it), and God’s justice is satisfied (2 Corinthians 5:20–21). There will still be consequences for all who break the civil laws, but those who are in Christ have no fear of the final judgment (1 John 4:17–18).
The charge has been made that there is a contradiction in Genesis 10–11. The accusation is that if people had already spread around the world (as recorded in Genesis 10), fulfilling God’s command, why was mankind judged with the confusion of languages as recorded in Genesis 11? This is actually an easy “contradiction” to clear up.
Genesis 10, often called “the Table of Nations,” traces the origins of nations and people groups as they dispersed around the world after the Flood. It is a historical narrative of the descendants of Noah’s three sons. That chapter concludes with this statement:
These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations; and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the flood (Genesis 10:32).
After the descendants of each of the sons of Noah are mentioned, the text says that they were dispersed “according to their families, according to their languages” (Genesis 10:5, 20, 31). So, if Noah and his sons all spoke the same language, where did all of these other languages come from? Genesis 11 gives us the answer.
These groups of people did not willingly and obediently separate to fill the earth. Rather, we learn in Genesis 11:1–9 why these families separated from each other and how it came to be that there were so many languages in the world.
There is no contradiction here; Moses merely put the effect before the cause. Genesis 10 gives an overview, and then Genesis 11 fills in the details. You often find the same technique in other history books. One chapter might contain an overview of World War I — along with a list of major events. But the very next chapter might detail what the world was like in the years before the war and what events led up to it.
There may also be another reason why the order of these two events is switched. Keith Krell explains:
The actual outworking of the genealogies of Genesis 10 occurs after the events at the Tower of Babel (cf. 11:1 with 10:5, 20, 31). This interspersal of narrative (11:1–9) separates the two genealogies of Shem (10:21–31; 11:10–26), paving the way for the particular linkage between the Terah (Abraham) clan and the Shemite lineage (11:27). The story of the tower also looks ahead by anticipating the role that Abram (12:1–3) will play in restoring the blessing to the dispersed nations. By placing the Tower of Babel incident just prior to the stories of Abram and his descendants, the biblical writer is suggesting, in the first place, that post-flood humanity is as wicked as pre-flood humanity. Rather than sending something as devastating as a flood to annihilate mankind, however, God now places His hope in a covenant with Abraham as a powerful solution to humanity’s sinfulness. This problem (Genesis 11) and solution (Genesis 12) are brought into immediate juxtaposition, and the forcefulness of this structural move would have been lost had Genesis 10 intervened between the two.
Why do names of places appear in both the pre-Flood and post-Flood world? Does this refute a global Flood that should have destroyed such places?
When we read Genesis 6–9, it is obvious that there was a global Flood.
So the alleged contradiction is that some pre-Flood place names rea
ppear after the Flood. For example, table 1 illustrates the most common ones.
Table 1. Pre-Flood and Post-Flood References
|Havilah||Genesis 2:11||Genesis 10:7, 29||Noah’s grandson through Ham; Noah’s great, great, great, great grandson through Shem|
|Cush||Genesis 2:13||Genesis 10:6||Noah’s grandson through Ham|
|Asshur||Genesis 2:14||Genesis 10:22||Noah’s grandson through Shem|
|Tigris||Genesis 2:14||Genesis 10:4||River in modern-day Iraq|
|Euphrates||Genesis 2:14||Genesis 15:18||River in modern-day Iraq|
The answer to this conundrum is quite simple, but let’s use some illustrations so that we can better understand this.
Names of places often transfer. For example, Versailles, Illinois, was named for Versailles, Kentucky, when settlers moved from Kentucky into Illinois. And before that Versailles, Kentucky, was named for Versailles, France. If someone said to meet me in Versailles, you may have to ask “which one?”
Names of places often come from names of people as well. The land of Canaan was named form Noah’s grandson Canaan. St. Louis, Missouri, was named for King Louis IX of France.
Names of people sometimes came from places. Consider the name London that many people today have and its origin as a city in England.
With this in mind, it should be fairly easy to see how names could easily have been transferred through the Flood. Ham’s grandson was likely named after the land of Havilah. Cush was Ham’s son, and Asshur was Shem’s son. Noah, Ham, and Shem lived before the Flood and would have been aware of these regions. And of course, these names have gone on to become names of regions where some of these people settled after the dispersal of the Tower of Babel. Cush is modern-day Ethiopia, Asshur was where Assyria developed into a great nation, and so on.
For example, if I were to mention the “Thames River,” most people would quickly think of a river in southern England. However, the state of Connecticut in the United States, as well as Ontario, Canada, each have a river named “Thames.” When people settled in the Americas from Europe, they named some of these rivers for rivers they were familiar with. Why would we expect Noah and his descendants to do any differently? The Tigris and Euphrates that we know today in modern-day Iraq were named for the famous headwaters in the Garden of Eden.
There is no contradiction, but merely a situation of renaming new places, rivers, and people with previously used names.
So Peter went out and wept bitterly.
Expungement is a legal term that means “to remove from general review.” It means that an offense against the law is sealed in a court record and therefore not viewable in the future. In short, the record of the offense is removed from a person’s legal record. For practical purposes, expungement erases the record of legal offense—except for one thing: the consequences of the act. Removing the guilt and punishment of an offense is one thing; removing the consequences is another.
Such is the case with our sins before God. The guilt and punishment for our sins has been removed; Christ has taken upon Himself our sins; Christ has died in our place. But the consequences of our sins remain. To use another legal expression, you can’t “unring the bell.” Once something is said, heard, or done, it cannot be undone. That happened in the case of David’s sin of adultery. A loyal soldier lost his life, a woman and a king lost their honor, and they both lost their child. All were consequences of David’s sins. God forgave David his sins but did not take away the consequences (Psalm 51).
Instead of hoping you can ring the bell of sin and then unring it, better not to ring it at all.
We are born in sin and spend our lives coping with the consequences.