Notwithstanding their closeness to the Creation and their proximity to the Creator, there is nothing we read in the Sacred Account of Adam and Eve and their sons that suggest to us anything but that they were susceptible to the same temptations we ourselves now face daily (I John 2:15-17). We have seen the Fall of Adam and Eve from their fellowship with Jehovah. Now we read of the tragic incidents surrounding their children, Cain and Abel. This first family tells us much about us.
Cain was firstborn. His interests lay in the field. His brother Abel was a keeper of sheep. Both men brought an offering to the Lord, but only Abel’s was accepted. Multiple theories have been put forward as to why God rejected Cain’s offering and most of the time it centers on Cain’s attitude. And while Cain’s attitude certainly left a lot to be desired, this most certainly was not the sole reason, or even the main reason, the Lord rejected his offering.
No less than Jesus tells us that Abel was righteous (Matt. 23:35). Righteousness comes from keeping the commandments of God, for “all Thy commandments are righteousness” (Psalm 119:172). Paul tells us that now, today, it is in the gospel that the righteousness of God is revealed (Rom. 1:17). If Abel was righteous, then it was because he kept the commandments of the Lord. Indeed, the Lord tells Cain, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted” (Gen. 4:7). Clearly, the Bible reveals that Cain’s transgression was that he was not righteous, he did not do well, he did not obey.
Additionally, Paul declares that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Paul also declares that Abel presented his offering by faith (Heb. 11:4). Now, if faith comes by the word of God, and Abel presented his offering by faith, then Abel presented his offering according to the word of God. That is, he did well in obeying God’s commands.
This also explains why Cain was condemned. It was not an arbitrary, gratuitous dislike of Cain or his offering that led to God’s disapprobation, but a legal condemnation based on Cain’s disobedience of God’s revealed law. When has it ever been otherwise? Anyone today who similarly alters God’s commands, or who adds to or takes therefrom, shall likewise partake of God’s judgments (Rev. 22:18,19). The wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience (Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6).
If there are no other lessons to be taken from this historical account, this would be quite enough, for it is vitally important. It is a lesson that is taught over and over again throughout scripture. But Cain’s transgression of God’s commands led to other sins, as well. The man who cares not if he obeys God’s commands in worship, will care little about God’s commands in general. Cain is a case in point.
When the Lord condemned Cain for his disobedience in worship, instead of being contrite and humble, he became jealous, hateful and angry. God’s instruction to Cain was not to go seek to manage his anger, but to do well! God’s remedy for anger is to be obedient to Him! The way to acceptance with God is not through self-will, but humble obedience. Nevertheless, he took out his hatred on his righteous brother Abel. How very sad it is that the first account that we have of murder is meted out by a brother upon a brother.
Abel was the first martyr. He suffered for himself because he did well and the voice of his blood cried out from the ground as a witness (Gen. 4:10). The blood of Abel and of all the righteous prophets was required of that people which persecuted and killed them and then crucified the Saviour (Matt. 23:34-38). Jesus suffered for all because He did well. Today, the blood of Jesus speaks of better things than that of Abel’s (Heb. 12:24; I Pet. 1:18-20).
Eric L. Padgett