THE WORLD’S FIRSTBORN
In Genesis 4:1 we read that when the first child was born into the world Eve exclaimed: “I have gotten a man from the Lord!” and the babe was named Cain, meaning Acquisition.
Some Hebrew scholars have held that Eve actually said: “I have gotten a man—Jehovah!” However this may be, it seems clear that Eve did conclude that she had given birth to the promised Seed of Genesis 3:15.
Eve thought Cain was Christ. As she gazed at the child in loving pride, she doubtless said to herself: “A second Adam! The promised seed! And sent in such a lovely way! A man from God in my own arms!”
Eve would have been cold-blooded and hard-hearted had she not thought this. Yet she was wrong, for Cain was not Christ. Rather he was “of that wicked one” and soon enough he would grow up and it would be seen that “his works were evil” (I John 3:12).
CAIN AND ABEL
Whether or not Genesis 4:14 indicates that Adam’s children were already numerous when Cain was driven from the presence of the Lord, it is clear that the record of Scripture deals only with Cain and Abel until Seth is born to fill Abel’s place (Gen. 4:25).
Let us go back, then, to Cain and Abel, the world’s firstborn sons. Here at the dawn of history there were no racial distinctions, no Jew and Gentile, no black and white—just the two sons of one father, Adam. Yet there was one great difference between the two: the difference between faith and unbelief.
It is quite possible that had we known Cain and Abel personally we might have preferred Cain’s companionship to that of Abel. Cain was industrious, “a tiller of the ground,” while Abel was a shepherd. Cain may have been the more religiously inclined too, for we read first of Cain that “he brought an offering to the Lord,” and then of Abel that “he also” brought one (Gen. 4:3,4). Furthermore Cain may well have possessed the more refined and sensitive nature since he brought to the Lord, not a bleeding, quivering, dying lamb, but an offering “of the fruit of the ground.” Yet the record goes on to say:
“…And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering;
“But unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect…” (Vers. 4,5).
The reason for this is made perfectly clear in Hebrews 11:4, where we read:
“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and by it he, being dead, yet speaketh.”
The fact that Abel, unlike Cain, brought his sacrifice by faith, must mean that God had instructed the brothers as to the sacrifices they were to bring, for “faith cometh by hearing” (Rom. 10:17).
UNBELIEF AND SELF-WILL
As faith is the mother of obedience, so unbelief is the mother of disobedience and self-will.
Cain could, like Abel, have approached God in God’s way. Had he done so he would, like Abel, have been accepted and would have “obtained witness that he was righteous.”
It was unreasonable, therefore, but typical, that when he was not accepted he “was very wroth, and his countenance fell” (Ver. 5). How gracious of God, then, to reason with him as He did.
“And the Lord said unto Cain, why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
“If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, a sin offering1 lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him” (Vers. 6,7).
The meaning is clear. Do what is right and you will not need to bring a sacrifice, but even now that you have sinned, you need not be rejected for a sin offering lies at hand and you can bring it in sacrifice.
THE INCONSISTENCY OF UNBELIEF
But Cain was adamant. His pride had been hurt. And thus it was that one day “Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him” (Ver. 8).
Think of the inconsistency of this brutal act! The man who had been too sensitive, too refined, to bring a slain animal to God in sacrifice for his sins, was not too sensitive or refined to bludgeon his own brother to death.
As a result of his brutal obstinacy Cain was driven from the presence of the Lord to become a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth, and to cry with the doomed: “My punishment is greater than I can bear” (Ver. 13).
PAUL AND THE CHILDREN OF ADAM
It was given to the Apostle Paul to “fulfil [or complete] the Word of God” (Col. 1:25), not statistically, or textually, or chronologically, but doctrinally, by the revelation of “the mystery” (Ver. 26).
Paul’s God-given message was the capstone of divine revelation, for “the mystery” revealed to him is the secret of all God’s dealings with men and it is in its light that we must consider even the ancient account of Cain and Abel.
For nearly four thousand years God had made distinctions between man and man, distinctions between the line of Seth and the line of Cain, between the seed of Abraham and that of the pagan world about him, between the seed of Isaac and that of Ishmael, between the nation Israel and the other nations.
But in due time, under Paul’s ministry, God cast away His covenant people (temporarily) along with the Gentiles, concluding all in unbelief “that He might have MERCY upon all” (Rom. 11:32, 33).1 Thus it is Paul that takes us back, in his theology, not to David or Abraham, with whom the covenants were made, but to fallen Adam, pointing out that “as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin,” so by another “one Man” we may be delivered from sin and death (See Rom. 5:12-19).
“Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness [or, righteous act] of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Rom. 5:18).
Thus in Paul’s epistles former distinctions disappear. “Henceforth,” he says, “know we no man after the flesh” (II Cor. 5:16).
“For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:12,13).
There are, to be sure, human distinctions between Adam’s children that are still to be observed, but before God there is no difference, except that which we found existing between Adam’s first two children, the difference between faith and unbelief.
Now the sacred secret revealed through Paul has cast its light upon the story of Cain and Abel. The blood sacrifice which God then required was typical of that which He has since provided and by which believers not only receive witness that they are righteous but become partakers of all of the merits of Calvary: oneness with Christ, oneness with each other in Christ, a heavenly position, heavenly blessings, a heavenly prospect and all “the riches of His grace.”
“To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.
“In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace;
“Where He hath abounded toward us…” (Eph. 1:6-8).
“That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7).
Those who reject this forgiveness and these riches of grace are often much like Cain. They may be industrious, sensitive and refined. They may indeed be religious, but instead of approaching God in His way, through the blood of Christ, they come, like Cain, offering what they think is better: the fruit of their toil, their “good” character or their religious efforts.
Tell these good, religious people that only the blood of Christ can save them and, like Cain, their countenances fall. But the very religious leaders who have protested that the doctrine of the blood is “loathesome to the finer senses,” have also been the leaders in the apostasy that has encouraged communism and the brutality and godlessness that is even now engulfing our nation in its perils. Such is the inconsistency of unbelief, and it is of such that God says: “Woe unto them, for they have gone in the way of Cain…” (Jude 11).
THE ONLY DISTINCTION
During this dispensation of Grace God does not favor one race, or nation, or class above another where salvation is concerned. The one basic distinction is that which we found existing at the very beginning between Cain and Abel, and this distinction now, as then, determines our destinies.
“And the Lord had respect unto Abel AND TO HIS OFFERING, but unto Cain AND TO HIS OFFERING He had not respect.” Each man was accepted or rejected on the basis of His offering.
Today, since Christ has already given Himself as a sacrifice for us, we may either trust in His finished work and be accepted by God or bring our own sacrifice and be rejected.
Those who are rejected will one day have to say with Cain: “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” Those who are accepted will forever enjoy “the exceeding riches of His grace…His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
- A.V. renders this “sin” but in the Hebrew the word for sin offering is the same as the word for sin. Evidently “sin offering” is intended here.
- This applies to His offer of salvation to all, for as far as salvation itself is concerned He does not “have mercy upon all” (See Rom. 9:18).