Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Gospel Nuggets - The Way of Cain, or the Way of Jesus

John 14:6 (NKJV)
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."

Jude 1:11 (NKJV) 
Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. 




Jude is an amazing book to read. 

But firstly, is it kosher to call it a book? After all, it only has one chapter. Nowadays it would probably fall into the category of 'leaflet', or 'brochure'.

But don't let its' size fool you. Between the lines there is as much drama as Genesis. As much theological depth as Romans. As much poetry and wordplay as Psalms or Proverbs.
And it's all topped off with the most famous doxology in all the Bible.

It certainly delivers a king hit with regards to dealing with false teachers. If anyone had any doubt as to the dangers or the fate of false teachers, a quick read of the book of Jude will soon put them to rest!

It also explains the reason how they became false teachers in the first place, or more to the point, why they are false teachers. This can be found in verse 11:

Jude 1:11 (NKJV) 
Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. 

When I read this verse, it struck me how it contrasted the words of Jesus in John 14:6:

John 14:6 (NKJV)
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."

Verse 11 was the antithesis of the Jesus words - a complete opposite. 
If Jesus is the way, the truth and the life - then the examples in verse 11 are the wrong way, lies, and death.


The Way of Cain

What is the way of Cain? Well, let's take a look in Genesis and find out:

Genesis 4:1-15 (NKJV)
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, "I have acquired a man from the LORD.". Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.".
Now 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 killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?". And He said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth."


source:learn-biblical-hebrew.com

This is a sad account of the first recorded killing in history (well at least a man-to-man killing); a direct result of the disobedience of Adam & Eve being passed to the next generation. 
And we shouldn't be too surprised that something like this happened. The fruit of the tree of good and evil was devoured, and everything went downhill from there.

So, why murder? Well, let's take a closer look at the account.


Verse 2 tells us that Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain was a tiller of the ground. 

Both had their respective roles to play - work that had to be carried out. God had banned Adam & Eve from the Garden of Eden, and cursed the ground due to man's disobedience (Gen 1:17-19). As a result, fully-grown, fruit-bearing fruit trees and plants just didn't appear for them by God's hand anymore.
And because man knew that he was naked (or, as Genesis puts, their 'eyes being open'), garments had to be constructed to cover themselves up.

Abel kept sheep probably for this very reason - to harvest the wool. He may have also used their milk, and possibly meat to eat (although we don't know exactly when man first became carnivorous). 
His job was to lead the sheep to the best ground - the most luscious grass on which to feed on, and to protect and tend to them.

And verse 2 also tells us that Cain tilled the ground. Tilling is what a farmer would use a tractor for these days - turning over the soil, preparing it for seed, or pre-prepared cuttings or seedlings of vegetables or fruit. This would have been back-breaking work.

Now verses 3-5 tell us that they both brought offerings to the Lord - Cain an offering of fruit of the ground, and Abel the firstborn of his flock and their fat. 
The Lord respected Abel and his offering, but rejected Cain and his offering.

I used to agonize over why this was. I can remember years ago being in a Bible study group where we mulled over this for hours. Here are some of the conclusions we come up with:
  • Abel brought the firstborn, whereas it doesn't say that Cain brought his first fruit, and his was rejected because of this;
  • To offer the fat of the lamb, the sheep must be killed, and without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins (Heb 9:22). Therefore Cain's offering could never be accepted;
  • Abel's was the model of what would become the Jewish sacrificial system, and this made Cain jealous. His attitude caused God to be displeased with him.

None of these actually satisfied me fully. They all could be the reason, but none were definitive enough, relying on speculation rather than hard evidence.

But back then I was lazy in my Bible study. I did not dig deep enough. I did not consult any concordances, or own a study Bible that had matching references in the columns.

If I had done this, I would have found my answer within minutes.
Next to this verse is the reference to our verse in Jude. And against this verse is another reference to Heb 11:4. In context, this says:

Hebrews 11:1-6 (NKJV)
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. 
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.
By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, "and was not found, because God had taken him"; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. 


Ah, yes, the mighty Hall of Faith chapter. The chapter that recounts all the great deeds of our spiritual forefathers.

So, by faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, it says in verse 4. 
So does that mean God has a sliding scale of acceptance, dependent on the amount of faith one has? After all, Abel's sacrifice was more acceptable. Does that mean that Cain's was acceptable, but less acceptable?
Well, if I was a prosperity preacher, I would say 'Yes!'. I would say the more faith you have, the more God will accept you, and bless you. So, make your giant faith offering cheques out to Craig Godfrey Ministries...

But faith isn't like the amount of water from a tap, that the more you turn the tap on, the more faith comes out. Look a verse 6 of Hebrews 11:

Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV)
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.


So this says that without any faith it is impossible to please God. I must come to God believing that He is. If I do not believe that, then I have no faith, and I can never please Him. Faith is the tap - it is either on, or it is off.

I can offer the biggest, shiniest, most expensive offering to God, but if I have no faith in Him, then it counts for nothing.

Faith has nothing to do with the size or value of my offering to God. It's about whether I have faith in the God I am offering to. If I do not believe in God, I cannot please Him no matter how hard I try.

Yes, Abel brought the firstborn of his flock. Yes, it did require the shedding of blood. And yes, the animal sacrifice did become the way of the Jewish sacrificial system.
But all that is not the reason why God accepted his sacrifice over Cain's.

In truth, Abel could have dumped a big pile of rocks before God, and God would have accepted it - because God's acceptance isn't based on the quality or quantity of the sacrifice. It is based on the faith of the giver. Not the amount of faith, but whether there is faith.

The Way of Cain is the Wrong Way

The way of Cain is the way of trying to please God without having any faith in Him. 

It's really the wrong way. Hebrews 11:6 says without faith it is - hard work? Difficult? Tricky? 
No! It is impossible to please God.

And it's someone who pretends to have faith in God, in order to deceive others. 
Remember, the theme of the epistle of Jude is exposing false teachers - those that go through all the motions. They say all the right things. They behave a certain way in order to look 'holy'. They don sheep's clothing, but underneath, they are wicked wolves. They have no faith.

Could that be you? Are you trying to please God by doing all the right things, namely by:
  • going to church to satisfy someone else's requirements - ie parents?
  • putting your name down for every church ministry opportunity available?
  • doing nice things for other people?
  • doing things 'in Jesus' name'?
  • turning up for church twice a week? 
  • raising your hands during worship? 
  • even taking notes during the sermon?
 - all that in an attempt to score brownie points with God, or to deceive believers into thinking you are a believer as well - only to lead them away from God?.

Is your faith in your worship, that is worship to God, or is your faith in the recipient of the worship, God Himself


I need to tell you that the way of Cain is really no way at all. 

It is the wrong way. 

It's actually a way towards judgement, and death.

If this is you, then you could be one of the ones that Jesus will say on that day 'depart from me, I never knew you' (Matt 7:21-23).
And there is that word 'knew' again. This is the same context we read in Genesis 4 earlier, referring intimacy:

Genesis 4:1 (NKJV)
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain...

The ones that Christ 'knows' are the ones that have faith. 

But faith isn't a word that you conjure up to use like magic fairy dust, slapping against all your selfish wishes. I've been to churches where that happens. The harder you pray, the higher you lift your hands, the more 'tongues' you blab out (and I put the word tongues in quotes because it doesn't meet the biblical requirements); if you do all this, you will conjure up enough 'faith' to declare things. Demand from God what he has never decreed in scripture.

No, true Biblical faith - just like faith in the real world - it has an object.

But for Christians, that object is Jesus Christ Himself. Not because He was a good person, or had good morals for us to live up to, or a good example to follow. We have faith in Christ because He died in our place. He took God's wrath upon Himself so so that we might be reconciled back to God through Him. Isn't that far easier that trying to earn His favour with what amounts to worthless sacrifices?

And when we are reconciled back to God, we 'know' Christ, and Christ 'knows' us.

Did Abel have faith in Christ? Yes, and no.

No in the fact that he didn't know who Christ was. Was Christ in this story? In a distant way, He was - in the loins of his future brother Seth, by descent. 

But Abel had faith in God, and according to Romans 4 we know that prior to Jesus being on the earth, belief in God is counted as righteousness:

Romans 4:1-5 (NKJV)
What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.
But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.


Romans also tells us that 
Romans 6:23 (NKJV)
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. 


Faith in Christ is counted as righteousness, whereas no faith in Christ earns us death.

What does all our preening, crowing, and deceitfulness earn us? 
An accumulating debt that we are unable to pay, and acquires death. 
It is storing up, or earning wrath, that will be poured out on the day of judgement (see Romans 2:5).


So, now we know why Abel's sacrifice was accepted. He had faith in Christ, via trust in God, and this faith was counted as righteousness.

And we also know why Cain's was rejected. He had no faith. He blindly thought that turning up before the giver with a mountain of gifts, but without out any love for Him, would somehow please Him.

So there is the Gospel message when we combine all 3 texts:
  • By faith Abel obtained witness that he was righteous through his sacrifice (Heb 11)
  • God accepted Abel's offering, but rejected Cain's (Gen 4)
  • Woe to those who go the way of Cain (Jude).
And there is always good news:

John 14:6 (NKJV)
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.


You can go by the way of Cain. 
You can do things your way, trying your best to be someone you're not, in a vain attempt to be accepted by God. Feigning love for God, while at the same time refusing to have a restored relationship with Him. You're like the false teacher, who instead of going through the gate, jumps the fence into the sheepfold (John 10:1).

In return, you earn God's wrath, not His acceptance - another crime to add to the rap sheet, to be read out on the day of judgement.

Or 

You can go by way of Jesus, through faith.
Not faith in your sacrifice, but faith in His sacrifice, on your behalf. This is via repentance and faith, entering the sheepfold by way of the narrow gate (John 10:9).

source:pinterest.com

In return, He credits a perfect righteousness that cannot be earned. It cost Him everything so that you will not have to do anything to deserve it. It is a free gift, reserved for, and bestowed upon, those who 'know' God. 

Again:
Jude 1:11 (NKJV) 
Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. 


But:
John 14:6 (NKJV)
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."

Blessings.

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