Clothed in Righteousness: The First Sacrifices

Read Genesis 3, Romans 5, Genesis 4:1-8

The tragic story of the temptation of man and the consequences of his disobedience to God begins in Genesis. In “The Last Adam,” we talked about how Adam is a type or a foreshadowing of Christ. Now let’s focus on how the first sacrifices in the Book of Genesis set the stage for the ultimate sacrifice Jesus would make 2,000 years later on the cross. Jesus, through His sacrifice, did what Adam never could, clothe us in righteousness.

Paradise Lost

God had made everything they needed available to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; it was paradise. Along with this utopia, God had also given them dominion and authority over all His creation (Genesis 1:26); all Adam and Eve had to do was trust God and His Word.

This power that Adam and Eve possessed, Satan, wanted for himself. Satan, who Jesus described as the “father of lies” (John 8:44), came up with a devious scheme to take man’s dominion and authority from him (Genesis 3:1-6). Satan planned to cause Adam and Eve to doubt God’s word and, through this doubt, sin against God. His plan worked. Through Adam’s one act of disobedience, the entire world fell into sin.

The moment that Adam ate of the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, sin was brought into the world (Romans 5:12), “their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So, they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves” (Genesis 3:7). Adam and Eve’s attempt at making their own covering was man’s first try to make himself right with God through his own efforts. But as the Prophet Isaiah reminds us, our “righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6); they can never wash us clean from our sin.

Adam and Eve quickly discovered that they could do nothing to make themselves right with God; their covering of fig leaves was not enough. Instead, to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness, God “made garments of skin…and clothed them (Genesis 3:21). Throughout Scripture, clothing is a symbol of righteousness. Isaiah writes that God dressed him in the clothing of salvation and draped him in a robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10), and Job says that righteousness covered him like a robe (Job 29:14). 

The Covering of Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve sinned and deserved to die. But God, out of His great mercy, clothed them with garments of skin to cover their nakedness, their sin. God’s cover was not without a price, though; two animals had to die. These animals were the first blood sacrifice. Through God’s provision of cover, He laid down the divine principles of salvation. Sin must be paid for, and that payment must be made through a sacrifice that only God can provide. Innocent blood must be shed for the guilty. This first sacrifice is a shadow of the reality that someday God would offer His one and only Son, Jesus, as that innocent sacrifice that would pay the price for all our sins (John 3:16).

Cain and Abel

“Cain & Abel” John Martin, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

This shadow of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice can also be seen in the story of Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel were the sons of Adam and Eve. Cain was a farmer, and Abel was a shepherd. God required an offering. Cain brought some of his crops to God for his offering. Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock for his. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice but rejected Cain’s. This made Cain very angry, and because of his envy, he killed Abel. This was the first murder recorded in Scripture (Genesis 4:1-8).

Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable to God because it was a blood sacrifice, it was the very best he had, and by making this sacrifice, Abel was obedient to what God had instructed him to do. Abel’s offering “gave evidence that he was a righteous man” (Hebrews 11:4).

Cain’s sacrifice, on the other hand, was not acceptable to God because it was not a blood sacrifice, it wasn’t the best he had, and by his sacrifice, Cain made it clear to God that he rejected God’s instructions on sacrifice (Genesis 4:6). In response to Cain’s disobedience, God asked him, “Cain, if you do what is right, will you not be accepted?” (Genesis 4:7). Cain continued to refuse God’s wisdom and eventually was driven from the land by God (Genesis 4:13-14).

Abel’s offering is a type of Christ because, like Christ, Abel’s offering is a sacrifice of an innocent, living creature whose blood is spilled for the righteousness of the guilty. Further, Abel himself is a type of Christ because he is a shepherd (Genesis 4:2), just as Jesus is the “Good Shepherd” (John 10:11). Abel is killed by his brother Cain because of envy (Genesis 4:7). Jesus is also killed by his own people because of their jealousy (Matthew 27:18).

These sacrifices are pictures of the sacrifice Jesus would make 2,000 years later, on the cross. Nothing short of the blood of Jesus can cover our sins. When we accept what Jesus did for us on the cross, we “put on Christ, like putting on new clothes” (Galatians 3:27). Christ is our covering; He is our righteous robe.


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