By Henry Mahan
v. 1. We have been bound in our thinking by pictures and stories in children's Bible storybooks that present a totally unrealistic view of the first family. Adam and Eve are pictured with only two sons, one of which killed the other and left them with only Cain, the fugitive, until Seth was born when Adam was 130 years old.
There were no children born to Adam and Eve before the fall, but you can be certain that there were many born to them after the fall (Gen. 5:4). Cain was the first man-child. It is not certain that he was the first child or that Abel was the second. One commentary suggests that by the time Seth was born, Adam probably had as many as 32,000 descendants. As you will note in reading the Scriptures, the birth of a female was not usually even mentioned, only the male, and not all of them by any means. It is believed that when Cain was born to Eve, she thought he was the promised Messiah; 'I have gotten the man from the Lord.'
v. 2. God has singled out these sons of Adam to teach to all redemption by blood (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22) and to condemn salvation by works (1 Peter 1: 18-20). The way of Abel is the way of grace, and the way of Cain is the way of works. Here is the crossroads, and all who attempt to come to God must choose one or the other. There are only two religions in the world--grace and works (Rom. 11:6). Cain was a farmer and Abel was a shepherd.
v. 3. Cain and Abel were not young boys at this time, but they were evidently heads of households with wives and children and occupations. Nor were these the first sacrifices offered to God for sin, for it is certain that God had instructed Adam as to how he was to worship and approach the living God. Adam, in turn, had taught his sons and daughters as Abraham taught Isaac (Gen. 22:6-7). As their father had done before them, Cain and Abel, as heads of families, brought their sacrifices and offerings to God. Cain brought the fruit of the ground, which he had raised, and Abel brought a lamb.
vv. 4-5. What was wrong with Cain's sacrifice?
It was a bloodless sacrifice, thereby denying his need of the Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. Cain would be his own priest, his own mediator, and his own intercessor.
It denied that he was a sinner before God, who deserved condemnation and death. He approached God on the grounds of his own merit and works. He was proud of the fruit of his fields (Rom. 6:23).
He refused God's revealed way of worship and acceptance (Luke 24: 44-47; Eph. 1:6-7).
Why did God have respect to Abel's offering?
It was an offering of faith (Heb. 11:4). Like Abraham, Abel believed God. He came to God as he was told to come.
It was an offering typifying Christ--the lamb of God--as we see in the Passover lamb (Exo. 12:5-6). A lamb, the innocent dying for the guilty. A male of the first year, in the prime of life.
Without spot or blemish; Christ was without sin. Slay it, shed its blood, and roast it with fire; Christ suffered and shed his blood for our sins.
It was an offering confessing his sins and owning that they deserve death. Our sins deserve the wrath of God; and in order to justify us, the Lord Jesus must die before the Justice of God (Rom. 3:23-26). Christ, our substitute, made full satisfaction before the law of God and the justice of God, thereby enabling God to be just and the justifier of those who believe in Christ.
v. 6-8. Cain was angry and became depressed. The religion of works yields no comfort and no communion with God. Men go about their ceremonies but find no peace; they make professions and act religious but find no rest nor assurance because God is not reconciled (2 Cor. 5:19).
Cain was not angry with himself as he should have been, but he was angry with God and with his brother who believed God.
Instead of looking into his own heart and finding the reason for his troubles, he turned on Abel.
Cain, rather than repenting and coming to God by faith in Christ Jesus, rose up against his brother and killed him. The first human blood shed on earth was over salvation by grace or salvation by works. Cain would come to God not by grace through faith in Christ, but by his own works and merit (Eph.2:8- 9). This battle still rages and the results are the same. God is the same, sin is the same, men are the same, the way of life through the blood of Christ is the same, and 'the way of Cain' still persecutes the way of faith.