Monday, January 11, 2021

Living Biblically - The Story of Cain

This past week, Jan and I watched a documentary about Doc Holliday. Not our Doc Holliday but the one from the old west. I learned much about him I didn’t know. Which is really the intention of documentaries. When you watch a documentary, you get information from a variety of sources that pull together to create one story, an interweaving of history, hearsay and speculation, and all of it together makes a fuzzy picture clearer.

I read the Bible like a documentary. I try to keep everything within the big picture. The NT was written by men who only knew the OT and made references to it often in their writings. They did so to show how one helps explain the other. We cannot use just one Testament; we need both to bring the picture into focus.

Part of that is due to God’s progressive revelation of truth in which He reveals the meaning later to what happened earlier, because men at the earlier point didn’t need to understand what those coming later do need to understand.

So, when we study things like the story of Adam and Eve using only the OT, we have a limited view of what really went on. For example:

·       We don’t know that Adam represented all mankind and his actions affected the lives of all people from then on.

  • We don’t know what the consequences of Adam’s sin really were.
  • We don’t know how death came into the picture: was it physical or spiritual.
  • We don’t know the extent of God’s judgment against sin.
  • We don’t know what God planned to do because of Adam’s sin.
  • We don’t know what the solution to Sin is until much later.

We learn all of this in the NT. Then, when we take what we discover in the NT with us when we read the OT, we get much greater understanding. The OT is the backstory for the NT. The NT clarifies the OT. The NT expects us to know the OT so we have a grasp of the significance of what went on in the past having relevance today.

Otherwise, what does it even matter what went on in the Garden? A great deal, of course. For one thing, needing to know where our struggle with sin comes from and what are our options.

Genesis doesn’t tell us but Paul does: Rom 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.

We typically focus on the results of sin: stealing, lying, murder. But behind these actions, there is a cause.

Rom 7:20-21 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 

Sin is the reason I sin. In me is a driving force that pushes me to disregard God’s commands and choose to be my own god and fulfill my wants and desires on my own terms. It is the heartbeat of idolatry. It is the urging of our own lust. Sin is not the evil actions. Sin is the ingrained willingness to disregard and disobey God which produces evil actions we call sins.

If the story of redemption is like a thread going throughout history, revealing God’s plan of Salvation and ultimately passing through our hearts, sin is the parallel thread of the willingness to disregard God and satisfy our own desires without Him.

Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion: "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." Affects both the physical world and the spiritual world.

The writer of Hebrews said: Heb 12:1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 

He doesn’t say lay aside the sins but Sin – the principle driving us to entangle ourselves with ungodly desires that trip us up and interferes with us running the race set before us. Sin is the steel-toed work boots we’re trying to wear while running the race. Take them off.

Lay aside – choosing to reject the influence. Which takes us back to Free Will – that ability and responsibility to choose. Because of that choice, God would declare people righteous. He also uses choice to target His wrath.

Rom 1:18-20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 

In those early days, God examined people’s hearts and watched their actions to determine if He saw righteousness or unrighteousness. He no longer does that. Later would come the Law that would give them specific requirements to obey which would determine righteousness. He no longer does that. Now He has presented Jesus as the final solution. Judgment is now based on whether a person has been declared righteous by having Jesus’ death applied as payment for the penalty of their own sin.

John 3:16-19 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 

Do you hear choice behind believing and the consequence for rejecting?

In the beginning God separated the light from the darkness. When Adam sinned, spiritual darkness came into the picture. And, according to John, with the opportunity to come out of the darkness, men chose to remain in it.

1John 1:5-7 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 

Choosing the light. Rejecting the darkness. Therein lies the intention behind God giving us Free Will – that we would choose Him and reject sin. Life is a daily series of choices: resist or give in to the temptation to sin, walk in light or darkness, obey or disobey, submit to the spirit or the flesh. That’s demonstrated in Cain and Abel.

Gen 4:1-8 Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, "I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD." Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it." Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him

Why did Cain kill Abel? Because he chose to refuse to obey what the Lord told him when He said: resist the temptation. His was a spiritual act of disobedience. But in practical terms, driven by his nature to sin, Cain chose not to resist but to give in to the temptation to kill his brother. But if you had asked Cain, he would have said it was all Abel’s fault.

Why was Abel’s offering of a lamb accepted and Cain’s offering from the produce he grew not accepted? Several reasons:

1.      The lamb was a symbol of the Plan of God that would be one day fulfilled in Jesus, the Lamb of God, taking away the sins of the world.

2.     God was teaching future generations to be careful what they present as a sacrifice to God. Not everything is acceptable.

3.     Or it may go back to the curse in the Garden. Gen 3:17 Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it'; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. 

4.     The ground was now under a curse so that what was produced from it would have been unacceptable to give to God.

5.     But, wait, there’s more.

Heb 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous.

As with any offering, God judged the hearts and actions of both men through how and what they presented Him. He declared Abel righteous. That would lead us to believe God judged Cain as unrighteous.

Ps 24:3-5 Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the LORD And righteousness from the God of his salvation. 

Offerings are a symbol of ascending the hill of the Lord in worship, not just an obligation. Abel came with a pure heart and clean hands. Cain did not. That’s why not only what we give but how we give our offering matters.

1John 3:11-13  For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother's were righteous. Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. 

John connected Cain’s actions to the actions of the Devil – the driving force behind our temptation to sin. Satan encouraged Cain to make an offering but to do so with a darkened heart. “God, You don’t matter so what I give you doesn’t matter.” Then you can hear Satan whispering, “Listen, Cain, you don’t deserve that rejection. You’re as good as your brother.”

Regardless of the actual reason, being rejected by God drove Cain to kill Abel, which drove him further into the world. Gen 4:11-12 Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.

Here is the consequence of Adam’s sin being manifested in Cain’s life. Now, we know what kind of death Adam’s sin brought in. Spiritual death results in separation from God. Cain’s actions said his heart was more like unrighteous mankind’s than the family of God’s. So, God excluded him.

Now, to answer a question that has plagued people forever: where did Cain get his wife. If you believe Adam and Eve were the first people on earth, you have to believe that since they were the only other people on earth, Cain’s wife would have been his sister. That’s a hard thought to digest. But if Adam and Eve were formed as a special act of God separate from creation of mankind, you have a more reasonable answer.

Gen 4:16-17 Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son. 

He settled in the land of Nod, had relations with his wife and produced Enoch. Then built a city. Why not just make a tent or find a cave? There’s only three of you.

Here’s my perspective: Cain would go off into the world where there were other people from God’s creation of mankind, take a wife from one of the families living there and begin his family. From the people collected around him, he built a city to honor his son. Then, at the same time this was going on, Adam and Eve had additional children.

Gen 4:25-26 Adam had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and named him Seth, for, she said, "God has appointed me another offspring in place of Abel, for Cain killed him." 

Gen 5:1, 3 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God…When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth. 

Did you notice the subtle difference in God making Adam and Adam making Seth? Adam was made in the likeness of God. Seth was made in the likeness of Adam. Why the difference? Adam’s image was now the fallen image caused by sin. But watch what Grace does.

Even though Cain, the firstborn, should have been the son through whom the thread of God’s purpose passed, God bypassed Cain and ran that thread through Seth. You’ll find that in many stories of the Bible: Esau and Isaac, David being anointed King.

Look at Seth’s response: Gen 4:26 To Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then men began to call upon the name of the LORD. From Seth onward, men called upon the name of the Lord.

This is the first sign of redemption in the story. What is redemption? A returning to what was intended. Reconciling those who had lost the path back to the path. Redeeming the relationship God had originally desired. What Adam lost, Seth regained. Seth knew of his parent’s personal knowledge of walking with God, experiencing the favor of God, hearing God’s voice. That was the relationship he wanted with God. Then, his desire to walk with God as his parents did spilled out onto the lives of all who followed. From Seth, calling out to that same God for the same relationship created the righteousness-desiring legacy for the Family of God.

Joel 2:32 And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD Will be delivered;


The word delivered in Joel and saved in Romans are the same word. There is always a delivered from and a saved into when we call upon the Lord.

The calling on the Name of the Lord is our response to the personal invitation for God’s activity in our lives. Calling for the greatness of God to fill our lives and infuse them with His goodness is our opportunity to become interwoven into the story of what God is doing. Calling on the Name of the Lord is the surrender by which God declares people right with Him and includes them into His family. It says, “God You are my answer and my only hope. There is no other God for me but You. I give you myself and all that concerns me.”

Do you see what’s going on? God is helping define who are His and who are not His. He is making that distinction between Mankind and the Family of God. Cain showed us not all in the family lineage of the people of God are within the Family of God. Only those who call out to Him and declare Him their God, surrendering their hearts and actions to Him.

That distinction will now carry us through the rest of the Bible, as Paul affirms:

2Tim 2:19 The firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness." 

God’s children are the products of God’s grace. They are those who have responded to His invitation to life, who He has cleansed, forgiven and declared righteous and now live with the new desire to honor and obey Him and reject the desires of the flesh to sin against Him.


  1. Grace reaches through a sin-stained life and touches the heart with a desire for more than what the world can offer.
  2. Grace does not remove the Old Nature to sin, but gives us a New Nature infused with the power of a godly life.
  3. Calling on the Name of the Lord engages the mightiness of Heaven in our behalf when we choose godliness over darkness.
  4. Wanting what God wants is the driving force behind Living Biblically.

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