Though they were not the first people to live upon the face of the earth, Cain and Abel were the first children to live upon the face of the earth. The story of Cain and Abel is found in Genesis 4:1-17. In brief, Cain and Abel both offered a sacrifice to God. Cain did not offer according to God’s instruction and Abel did. As a result, God was pleased with Abel’s offering and was not pleased with Cain’s. A brief observation we might note is that of the first four people to inhabit the earth, the first three disobeyed God, with Abel, the fourth being the only one of whom no sin is revealed. When the Hebrew writer began “faith’s hall of fame” (Heb. 11), the very first person mentioned is this fourth human to live on earth, Abel (Heb. 11:4). In this article we wish to give consideration to some lessons that we can learn from these first two children of humanity.
First, let us take note of the lesson that God’s law is universal. In other words, God is no respecter of persons. As noted, Cain and Abel were the first children born on the face of the earth. Adam and Eve had been created. Cain and Abel were born through the natural means of childbirth that has continued until this present day. Though the conception of Jesus was by a miracle, even His birth was the same as that of Cain and Abel. Cain was the first born child of humanity. Yet, this exalted position did not influence God’s response to sin. Peter finally understood this point when he told Cornelius, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34-35). We will be judged in the last day by what we have personally done, not by our social, political, economic or genealogical status. The apostle Paul wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (II Cor. 5:10).
Secondly, we can learn from these first two children that if you are not right in the sight of God, sin is the reason. God did not arbitrarily accept Abel’s offering and reject Cain’s. God told Cain, “…if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door” (Gen. 4:7). Sin separates man from God. Isaiah told Israel, “…your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isa. 59:2). Many years later, Peter said much the same when he wrote, “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (I Pet. 3:12). So, what is sin? It is disobedience to God. The apostle John wrote, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (I John 3:4”). John also said, “all unrighteousness is sin” (I John 5:17) and we learn from the psalmist that all God’s commandments are righteousness (Psalm 119:172).
A third lesson that we can learn from Cain and Abel is that God says what He means and He means what He says. There is no direct statement in the Bible showing that God had commanded an animal sacrifice as made by Abel. However, the Hebrew writer said that, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain” (Heb. 11:4). Add to that the statement of the apostle Paul, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17) and we can know that God had indeed given a command to Cain and Abel to offer the animal sacrifice. Man has not the right nor authority to change what God has said in any way shape or form. Moses told Israel, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2). Paul told the Galatians, “…though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8-9). Whether the majority of man agrees with what God says or not, whether what God has said in His word is popular or not, whether obeying is easy or hard, God said what He meant and He meant what He said. If we will be as Abel rather than as Cain, we will obey the commands of God.
Briefly in closing, consider one last lesson from Cain and Abel. That lesson is: “Yes, we are our brother’s keeper”. The question is not answered in the text except by inference. In the New Testament, it is clearly spoken. Paul told the brethren of Galatia, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). He told the Philippians, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Phil. 2:4). We can learn a lot from children, and there are many good lessons for us found in those first two children. Heed the lessons!
Robert Oliver is pastor of The Church of Christ and a long-time columnist for The Sampson Independent. Send any questions or comments to: [email protected]