WHO CAN BRING A CLEAN THING OUT OF AN UNCLEAN? NOT ONE! [Job 14:4]
In Genesis 5:3 we are told, “Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in HIS OWN LIKENESS, AFTER HIS IMAGE.” That occurred after his fearful defection, and the statement is designed and in direct contrast with the declaration of verse 1: “In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him.” Adam did not communicate to his descendants the pure nature which he had originally by creation, but the polluted one which he acquired by the fall.
It is very striking to note the precise place where this statement is made in the sacred narrative: not at the beginning of Genesis 4 in connection with the begetting of Cain and Abel, but here, introducing a lengthy obituary list—showing that dying Adam could only beget mortals. The image of God included both holiness and immortality, but since Adam had lost them and become sinful and mortal, he could propagate none but those in his own fallen likeness, which had in it corruption and death (I Cor. 15:49-50; cf. v.22).
The copy answered to the original. Adam could not beget in any other way than in his own image, for a clean thing will not issue from an unclean. A depraved parent could produce nothing but a depraved child.
Born in Adam’s fallen likeness, not only in substance but in qualities also, all of his posterity are but a continuous repetition of himself. This is remarkably intimated in the opening verse of Psalm 14 which has for its theme the awful depravity of the human race. John Owen pointed out:
There is a peculiar distinguishing mark put upon this Psalm, in that it is found twice in the book of Psalms. The fourteenth and fifty-third Psalms are the same, with the alteration of one or two expressions at most. And there is another mark put upon its deep importance in that the apostle transcribed a great part of it in Romans iii.
Psalm 14 opens with the statement “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” The careful reader will notice that the words “there is” have been supplied by the translators—unnecessarily, we feel. The fool does not say in his head, “There is no God”; rather he says in his heart, “No God for me. I decline allegiance to Him.” It is not intellectual unbelief denying the existence of Deity, but the enmity of a rebel who refuses to practically own or be in subjection to God.
“The fool hath said in his heart, No God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works” (Ps. 14:1). Most significant and noticeable is that change of number in the pronouns, though for some strange reason it appears to have escaped the notice of the commentators—at any rate none whom we have consulted makes any reference to it. As stated above, the verses which follow give a full description of the deplorable condition of all mankind, and that is prefaced with a statement about “the fool.” Nor is there the slightest difficulty in identifying him. Who is the fool of all fools? Adam was the arch-fool. His heart had become devoid of wisdom. Thus was the father of our race. What could his children be like? Our verse answers, “They are corrupt,” and prove themselves to be so by doing abominable works.
“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5). This is the sad confession which every one of us makes. Born in the likeness of Adam as a fallen creature, all of his descendants are but replicas of himself. And since moral corruption is transmitted by him to them according to a fixed law of heredity, that corruption dates from the very beginning of their existence. Because by being Adam’s children they are depraved, it necessarily follows that they must be so as soon as they are his children.
David was the son of lawful and honorable marriage, yet from his parents he received Adam’s vitiated nature with all its evil dispositions. Note that he was careful to intimate that it was not by divine infusion, but by natural generation and human propagation. He mentioned it, not to excuse his fearful fall but to concede it. Matthew Henry states that David said in effect, “Had I duly considered this before I should not have made so bold with the temptation, nor have ventured among the sparks with such tinder in my heart.”
The realization that our whole being is horribly degenerated from its pristine purity and rectitude should make us thoroughly distrustful of self and cause us to walk most warily.