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A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr., Pastor Emeritus
and given by Jack Ngann, Pastor
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Afternoon, December 04, 2022

“And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord. And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell” (Genesis 4:1-5; p. 10 Scofield).

The account of Cain and Abel in these verses seems to be very simple, but it is full of deep meaning. And every one of us should think deeply about this passage, for it explains a great deal about sin and salvation. Furthermore, every person here today is either like Cain or like Abel. There are no exceptions. You either bear likeness to Cain, or you bear likeness to Abel. As you listen to this sermon, you should ask yourself which one of them you resemble. We learn about both of them in the fourth chapter of Genesis. They are the two types of men who live on earth today. Thus, the entire human race can be divided into only two classes – those like Cain, and those like Abel. As I preach, try to figure out the class to which you belong. First, I will show two ways these young men were alike, and then I will show the way they were different.

I. First, two ways that Cain and Abel were alike.

They were both children of fallen parents. Both of them were born outside of the Garden of Eden after the Fall, after God pronounced a curse on the human race, after their parents had been driven out of the Garden. The Apostle Paul said,

“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men” (Romans 5:12; p. 1197).

Thus both Cain and Abel were born in sin, “and were by nature the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). Both of them had depraved natures that were opposed to God,

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7; p. 1201).

As such, both had been shapen in iniquity and conceived by sin, and both were in need of salvation by God in Christ.

They both grew up in the same environment, in the same home, with the same parents. Dr. McGee said,

These boys had the same background. They had the same heredity. They had the same environment. There was not that difference in them…They had the same heredity and the same environment (J. Vernon McGee, Ph.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1981, volume I, p. 29).

So, Cain and Abel were exactly alike in two ways: (1) they were both totally depraved sinners, and (2) they both had the same heredity and environment. It is important for me to say those two things about them because we live in an age of pop-psychology, which tells us that if a boy goes “bad,” it was because of his bad heredity and bad environment; and if he is “good” it is for those same two humanistic reasons. But that is not what the Bible teaches. In the Scripture we learn that they were both depraved sinners by nature, and that neither of them could please God in that condition.

So, we see that Cain and Abel were exactly alike in their natures as they grew up in the home of Adam and Eve. And this passage shows that they grew up in exactly the same environment and background, which takes us to point two.

II. Second, the way that Cain and Abel were different.

The difference is quite simple. Cain was an unconverted man, while Abel was clearly converted. A. W. Pink said,

Cain and Abel stand as the representatives of the two great classes of people. They typify respectively the lost and the saved; the self-righteous and the broken spirited; the formal [professing Christian] and the genuine [convert]; those who rely on their own works, and those who rest on the finished work of Christ; those who insist upon salvation by human merits; and those who [desire] to be saved by [God’s] grace [in Christ]; those who are rejected and cursed by God, and those who are accepted and [saved]. (Arthur W. Pink, Gleanings in Genesis, Moody Press, 1981 reprint, p. 63).

Cain denied his ruined and fallen condition and did not come to God His way – by a blood sacrifice. But Abel acknowledged his sinfulness, believed what God said, expressed his faith in a bloody sacrificial substitute for his sin, and was thus converted, and was thus seen as a righteous man in the sight of God by faith alone, in Christ alone.

That is the way they differed. I do not care what some modern commentators say on this subject. For instance, Dr. John MacArthur tells us that Abel’s offering was accepted “because it was in every way obediently given” (The MacArthur Study Bible, Word Bibles, 1997, p. 22, note on Genesis 4:4, 5, emphasis added). His view seems to make “obedience” the key to God’s acceptance of Abel’s sacrifice. I fear that such a view makes “obedience” the means of obtaining salvation. That sounds perilously close to the Roman Catholic view (it was Finney’s view as well) and I simply don’t believe it. It is the error of our age – “decisionism.” It is a form of “synergism,” the belief that man contributes something to his salvation. That was not the belief of the Reformers and our Baptist forefathers. They were “monergists.” They taught that faith itself is a gift of God, and that man contributes nothing to his salvation. God does it all! So, it wasn’t Abel’s “obedience” that saved him – it was his “faith” – which was itself a gift, “not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:9). We are told explicitly in the New Testament,

“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which [faith] he obtained witness that he was righteous [by the imputed righteousness of Christ]”
(Hebrews 11:4; p. 1301).

It was not his “obedience” (Roman Catholic/Finney/modern Decisionism) but his “faith” (historic Protestant/Baptist) that made his offering acceptable. Obedience is a fruit of salvation, not the cause of it. So, Abel had faith, and Cain did not have faith. And it was through Abel’s faith that he brought a blood sacrifice to God. He was not saved by any form of “obedience,” but by faith alone for,

“Without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6; p. 1301).

Obedience comes after one is saved by faith in Christ, never as a prerequisite to acceptance and salvation. This is an important point indeed! Again, Abel was not saved by obedience plus faith (synergism). Abel was saved by blood, through God-given faith. Arthur W. Pink said

…that before God banished our first parents from Eden, he revealed to them the way of salvation: “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God makes coats of [skin] and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21)…By clothing Adam and Eve with [skin] God taught them four lessons. First, [for] a guilty sinner to approach a holy God he needed a suitable covering. Second, that the aprons of fig leaves which their own hands had made were not acceptable to [God]. Third, that God Himself must provide the covering. Fourth, that the necessary covering [of sin] could only be obtained through death. Death is the wages of sin…Either they must die or another must die in their place. Mercy can only come [to a lost sinner] after justice has been satisfied…In clothing them with [skin] God showed them by a forceful symbol that sin could only be covered – atoned for, for the Hebrew word for atone means “to cover” – at the cost of…blood being shed. [This pointed to the Cross] and foreshadowment of the cross of Christ. To Adam and Eve, God preached the basic truth of substitution – the just dying for the unjust, the innocent dying for the guilty. Adam and Eve were guilty…but these animals died in their [place], and by their death a covering was provided to hide their sin and shame. So it is with Christ and the [one who is saved]. In [Christ] I am provided with a robe of righteousness…These requirements were made known to their children. It is beyond question that [both] Cain and Abel knew that in order to come before [God] with acceptance they must bring a bloody offering (Pink, ibid., page 64).

Cain represents the natural man, the man who does not come to Christ, and is not washed clean in His Blood, and thus does not have his sins covered. Abel represents the man who acknowledges his sin, sees himself as a depraved sinner, and so comes to Jesus for cleansing in His precious Blood. Those who refuse to come to Christ for cleansing have a woe pronounced against them by God.

“Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain”
     (Jude 11; p. 1328).

No matter how carefully parents bring up their children in the Christian faith, there comes a time when those who do not come to Jesus go “in the way of Cain.” No matter how long you attend church, and no matter how many sermons you hear, there comes a time when those of you who do not come to Jesus will go “in the way of Cain.”

Now, at the beginning of this sermon, I asked you whether you are like Cain or like Abel. The answer is quite simple. If you trust Jesus and are cleansed by His Blood, you are like Abel. But if you do not come to Christ, you are like Cain, and it may soon be said of you,

“Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain”
     (Jude 11).

May that horrible experience not be yours. May you throw off your doubts and fears, struggle past your unbelief, rebellion and love of sin, and come to Jesus,

“Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Revelation 1:5; p. 1331).

Let us stand and sing from memory the first stanza of “There Is a Fountain.”

There is a fountain filled with blood Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood Lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, Lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood Lose all their guilty stains.
     (“There Is a Fountain” by William Cowper, 1731-1800).