24 Jun 2008
Looking at the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis, why did God respect Abel’s offering but he didn’t respect Cain’s offering.
To understand this story, one must look at the pieces of the story and see what they can represent. There is a message within this story that helps us understand how we can allow God to guide us today. The story of Cain and Abel contains warnings for us to hear, if we will hear.
Genesis 4:1 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. 2 And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. 4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof.
Cain and Abel were brothers, twins. Cain was born first while Abel was born second. Cain offered the fruit of the ground (the results of his “tilling”) to God and Abel offered the “firstlings” or first born of the flock (first born life), and the fat thereof (best part) to God. The first born life of an animal represents a first born life. And because Abel offered this it represents Abel’s “first born life” or his life. Cain’s fruit of the ground or the results of his “tilling” is something that results from work. The fruit represents the results of Cain’s labors or efforts. The word “tiller” here in Genesis 4:1 literally means “to work”.
Gal.2:16: Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Gal 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
Tit.3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
From Galatians and Titus above it is clear that man is not justified (made righteous) by doing “works” or by efforts to produce a result. Titus 3 says that by God’s mercy are we saved, and that no amount of works that we do will save us. The mercy we gain is the “washing of regeneration” (renewal or rebirth) and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. We are renewed by the Holy Ghost and graced with the mercy of God by allowing the Holy Ghost through God to guide our lives.
When we compare these scriptures with Genesis 4:1, we see that Cain and Abel’s two different types of offerings for acceptance from God represent two different ways people attempt to gain God’s approval. Titus 3:5 also explains these two ways of thinking which are; works of righteousness verses renewing of the Holy Ghost. The renewing of the Holy Ghost is gained by being a living sacrifice, see the scriptures below.
Rom.12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
2Tim.1:9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace,
We see again in Romans 12:1 that the “mercies” of God are a type of “renewing”. In Titus 3 it is the “renewing of the Holy Ghost”, in Romans 12 it is the “renewing of your mind”, both come from the mercies of God. Romans 12 says that we are to present our bodies as a “living sacrifice”. It is our reasonable service. Romans 12 also says that by renewing your mind you can prove (recognize by definition of Strong’s Concordance) what is acceptable to God. This is very important. Only by sacrificing our lives (metaphorically of course) for God to control can we renew our minds and recognize what is the acceptable will of God. Works do not save us and are not the acceptable perfect will of God.
Genesis 4: …And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect…
In Genesis 4 Abel’s offering of the life of an animal represents the sacrifice of his life to God which is the acceptable will of God. Cain’s offering of the fruits of his labor represent the “works of righteousness”, in Titus 3:5 it says, which does not save us.
These Bible teachings say we are to give up our carnal mind’s idea of how God wants us to live (offering him our works of righteousness), or Cain’s offering of the fruits of his works, and rather let God live through us and guide us, which is Abel’s offering of a living sacrifice. In other words when God tells us the path to take, we listen. Matthew 10:39 says "he that findeth his life shall lose it and he tht loseth his life for my sake shall find it". When we allow God to guide us we lose our minds idea of our life, but we gain a new life that is much better. The offering of our life as a living sacrifice to God is the type of offering that God will acknowledge or “respect” as spoken of in Genesis 4. God does not acknowledge the offering of the products of our works, but will acknowledge the offering of our bodies alive and ready to allow God to work through us (living sacrifice).
Gen 4 …And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.  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, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
Cain is angry because he offers his works and the product of his work to God yet God doesn’t respect or acknowledge the offering. Cain is angry and confused because he has worked so hard to please and yet he is still looking for God’s blessings. He does not understand why God does not acknowledge him or his offering. If we go back to the New Testament and look again at the numerous teachings about why works do not justify a man we can begin to understand why Cain is angry. Cain is similar to many people who do righteous works in hopes that they will please God, and God will reward them and acknowledge their prayers because of all the “righteous” works they have accomplished. Again see Titus 3:5.
God sees that Cain is angry and disappointed. God responds to Cain in somewhat a sarcastic manner. God asks Cain sarcastically why he is angry and disappointed. God asks this sarcastically because Cain has simply “reaped what he sowed” (pun intended) and God is trying to let Cain know that he simply got what he was asking for. Cain has not gained Gods respect but he has gained the acceptance of the world. Cain has sowed works of the earth (“tiller of the ground”) and now has only gained respect of the earth. God says “if thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?” (the word “accepted” here means dignity or loftiness, so dignity implies worldly acceptance). In other words God is saying to Cain, if you do your “works” well and your righteous works impresses those around you (you have dignity) you will be accepted by the world…sorry, but not by God. God is sarcastically saying to Cain that all those righteous works that you are perfecting are really just to impress the world and to gain acceptance by the world. God is trying to tell Cain that he should know that works do not impress God, so he must be trying to impress the world. God continues and says that if Cain does well at righteous works, the world will accept him, however when he doesn’t do these righteous works well enough (which is bound to happen), he will break the law and be known as a sinner, “sin lieth at the door”.
Romans 9:31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.
 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;
As Romans 9:31 says that the law of righteousness can not be attained by works. Cain can do all the righteous works of the world, however, he is bound to stumble at the law and sin (be a sinner) anyhow.
Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Romans 3:20 says that by the law is sin known. Where there is “works of the law”, there is knowledge of sin. We are bound to stumble and sin against the law created. This is what is meant by “sin lieth at the door”. In other words, sin is just waiting to happen. Cain is living by works so “sin lieth at the door” and is just waiting for him to mess up.
Galations 3:11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
Here in Galations 3:11 it is saying that we are not justified by God in doing right in the law, but only by faith in God to guide our lives for us (“living sacrifice”). However, if we choose anyhow to live by laws, we shall reap a life of living by the law of sin.
Romans 8:2 “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
God also says in Genesis 4:7 “that sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire and thou shalt rule over him”. After looking at Galatians 3:11 again we see that if Cain is doing the works of the law he is also living in them and by them. If Cain is living by works, sin will always be attracted him (unto thee shall be his (sin’s) desire). That is to say the earthly law is created to be broken. If sin is always waiting to happen to Cain, or he is living by works, then Cain will always need the law to keep him in line. The works of the law are then needed so that Cain “shalt rule over” sin. Cain is literally ruling over sin with rules (laws) that he follows through works. It is a never ending cycle. He uses the law to make him RULE over the sin. The word rule here is important, it means just has it says “to rule” as with laws of power. By living by the law, righteous works are always needed to ensure “rule” over sin. The point God is making is that we are not suppose to rule over sin but we are rather to be set free from sin. There is a huge difference. We can never truly serve God when we are preoccupied with ruling over sin by our works of righteousness. Ruling over sin doesn’t even begin to free us from sin.
Romans 6:18 “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness”.
John 3:3 “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
The story of Cain and Abel represents the type of things we can offer to God, but it also represents a message of being “born again”. Notice that Cain is the first born and Abel is the second born. As we discussed already, Cain represents man living a life by the works of his own hands. Abel represents a man living a life that is not his own but is God living through him. The order of their birth is important to notice. As John 3:3 says the order of our birth is important, we are to be “born again” or as comparing to order of birth, we are to be born a second time (second born). Our first birth represents the earthly man and our second birth represents being “born again”. The second born is a man who has been born again or is born of God. We all are supposed to be born twice. The second born, Abel, represents our second birth which is the same as being born of God. 1John 3:9 “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God”.
These two brothers reflect on the importance of our being “born again”, or of us being the “second born”, rather than the first born in life. Those that are born of God are free from sin and therefore “respected” of God. The first born has not yet grasped the understanding of being a “living sacrifice” so is more apt to live by works of righteousness to try and please God. And again these first born people are ruling over sin rather than one who is second born of God and is free from sin as 1John 3:9 says.
Genesis 4:8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.
Where Cain and Abel are brothers one representing the first born and the other the second born we can look at them both representing the first and second born both within each of us. When we look at the story from this perspective we see that the slaying of Abel, not allowing our second born to live, represents what we do when we present the works of our hands to God as our sole offering. We are living by our minds idea of what is good and bad. When we live by our minds idea of what is good and bad, we think when we do well we are accepted, and when we do bad we are sinning (sin lieth at the door). The life of what would be our second born then cries to God (Genesis 4:10) or pleads to God.
We do not allow the second born to live, or one could say, we do not allow ourselves to be born of God, and therefore live as the second born which would enable us to see the Kingdom of God. Being born of God is only what truly “frees” us from sin, rather than simply “ruling over sin” as Cain does by his works. We are afraid we will have to give up some part of ourselves if we offer our lives to God as living sacrifices. However, God lets us subtly know that that this is what we should allow, but we still feel that our works are worthy and should be awarded by God accordingly. How can simply letting him guide our life be enough (our minds ask)? The only way we accept ourselves as good enough is if we prove we are good enough by our own strength of will, by our own good works.
So we continue, as Cain does, living by our own works and believing that it should please God enough. All the while, “Abel” still cries to God in hopes that we will be born again. Genesis 4:10 “…voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me…”. When we live by our religious laws in order to please God we only gain dignity and the respect of the world or religious leaders because we have rules over sin (remember the word acceptance in Genesis 4:7 means dignity).
The story of Cain and Abel has very important messages for us. The brothers represent the two births that we go through. The first born is our physical self and physical efforts, the second born is ours spiritual second birth (being born again). Once we are born again, we can then stop offering God the fruits of our labors (works), and simply allow God to live through us (living sacrifice). This story is a comparison between someone who lives by works and rules and someone who allows their life to be guided and directed by God.