Religion versus faith.
Genuine faith requires an appreciation of our fallen state and the recognition that there is nothing in me that can make me right with God.
Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but [how] to perform what is good I do not find.
The first two children of Adam and Eve are born, outside of Eden, into a world where the ground is cursed.
Genesis 3:17-19 Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return."
Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
What does this speak of?
Two aspects of the men's doings need clarification:
Hebrews 11 tells us:
That Abel offered by faith. Cain did no such thing.
It was by faith. Sin separated Abel from God and hence only by faith could he deal with this impenetrable barrier. His heart was focused on the bridging the crevasse found between man and God. Cain focused on the action - the religious need to sacrifice.
Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice. Note that the sacrifice was more excellent not the most excellent - the reason why will be seen a little later.
The story of Cain and Abel is a stark reminder of where we stand before God.
The Bible states that Abel:
On the other hand it is said of Cain:
Here we have a picture of the world today, and in particular Christendom. Cain represents the religious man of the world. Abel the genuine man of faith walking on the cursed earth..
There is a great temptation to feel sorry for Cain. We ask in puzzlement, "What had Cain done to be so out of favour with God?" To answer this we often assume that Abel had something that Cain didn't.
Comparing the two, in the sense of the natural:
Ephesians 2:1-3And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
Rom 3:23 All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
That is they had fallen, were ruined, with an irredeemable nature - see John 3.
They could not work their way back to God.
Rom 5:19 By one man's disobedience many were made sinners.
Rom 5:12-21 Sin entered the world through one man.
1 Cor 15:47-48 The first man was of the dust.
Therefore, we conclude if it was not the men themselves, it must have been the sacrifice.
The story of Cain and Able tells the story of the difference between religious men and men of faith. It tells the story of religious worship and worship in truth and in spirit. God did not choose Abel because there was some good in him.
Examine the words carefully. Hebrew 11:4 focuses on the offering. It was the offering God saw, before He accepted or rejected the man. Now compare the offerings.
Cain sourced his offering with no regard as to its acceptance. It was based on human intellectual thought. Abel could only see sin between him and God and sourced his sacrifice accordingly.
This is worship in spirit and in truth. Not of the type we know, for we live in the time of grace. We have the Comforter. We have no excuse not to worship in truth.
Faith: Justifies the soul (Rom 5:1).
Purifies the heart (Acts 15:9).
Works by love (Gal 5:6).
Overcomes the world (1 John 5:4).
Faith pleases God (Heb 11:6).
Note that God looked upon the offering and the person was accepted or rejected.
God cannot look upon us. For if He did He would blot us out (For no man hast seen the Father, John 6:46). We were like Cain, but for some now it can be said:
But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Jeremiah 5:4I thought, "These are only the poor; they are foolish, for they do not know the way of the LORD, the requirements of their God.
But Cain can be you or I: Those who don't understand that God is not worshiped with mens' hands as though He needed something. Cain is the worship of the unconverted soul.
He and his generations built cities - he became busy - very busy. The conscious can be overburdened so that it need not think upon God, because it is too busy.
Invented things to make life tolerable.
Declined to a society of violence, defiance, murder, lust and vice.
He works with iron and brass an inferior class of materials. God works with Gold - purity.
Isaiah 60:17 From brass I will Gold, for iron I will bring Silver.
This is the fruit of false worship.
This will influence the choices and decisions we make:
It will determine our conscience recognition that we are pleasing God.
It will lead the will.
It will direct the tastes, the attitudes the responses.
Michah 6:8 He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?
In Abel we have a spiritual mind who brings true worship to the Lord.
John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
In Cain we have the religious man, too inward looking to see the need for salvation and brings what is natural - the toil of his labour.
Re 3:17 "Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' --and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked--
Indeed his life ended in toil of iron of brass - the crude things of this world not the pure:
Re 3:18 "I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire"
Gold in Scripture is always purity. There is nothing wrong with iron and brass but it is not the desire of the Lord's heart. Gold is. Our life needs to deal with gold - the pure things.
Php 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things [are] noble, whatever things [are] just, whatever things [are] pure, whatever things [are] lovely, whatever things [are] of good report, if [there is] any virtue and if [there is] anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things.
This is the real practical sense of being an Abel.
Our lives certainly touch the cursed earth, but our minds need to mediate on things above.
Abel is the Christian, spiritual, walking with the Lord.
Cain is full of dogma and false doctrine. Labours long and hard to create a system that is an utter and dismal failure.
Are we fully cognisant of our true wretched state?
Do we think something good dwells in us? That there is something we think we can do to appease God? For if we do we follow after the path of Cain.
Do you fall before Christ in true repentance and believe that He is able to take all and make us righteous.
Do we quietly wait for the Bridegroom?
Romans 8:25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
This is an actual activity which takes mental energy to perform. Every morning upon rising, we have to literally say to ourselves, today I am putting off self and today I will put on Christ. Of course this cannot be done alone. We pray, we ask the Father to place us in Christ. We replenish the soul by reading the Word.
By no means.
You may ask, if Cain's sacrifice was not acceptable, why was the fruit of the earth acceptable in the Mosaic law. You will find, for instance in the feast of the Tabernacles the command to bring a grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil. What of this? Well, one needs to read Scripture carefully - line upon line, precept upon precept. Before any fruit of the earth is brought sin must be dealt with. The first thing the priests did at the Feast of the Tabernacles was to offer a burnt offering - 13 bulls, 2 rams and 14 lambs had to be sacrificed.
The essence of all worship is dealing with sin first. Piously tending to Scriptures as many of our forefathers did, did not make them "religious". But knowledge without faith is dead. Pure religion is clearly defined in Scripture. What is it:
James 12:7 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
We are to busy ourselves - keeping our hands out of idle mischief.
The story of Cain and Abel tells of the necessity of understanding worship in truth and compares it with religious worship. This understanding comes by realisation of the predicament man is in - by sin he is lost. By Christ he is saved, through faith.
All the effort in the world will not overcome the sin of the world. Only by accepting Christ can God see us righteous.
Abel is a godly man. Cain is a worldly man.
Abel had faith. He knew sin separated him from God and he acted responsibly in dealing with the sin.
This passage shows that man in his natural state cannot work his way back to God. Only Christ can do this.
Beware, the way of Cain will easily be followed by the error of Balaam.
Hebrews 11:6 Without faith it is impossible to please God
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.