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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, January 22, 2023

“And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect” (Genesis 4:4-5; p. 10 Scofield).

Cain and Abel were both born and raised in the same environment, and with the same heredity. They were both born into a fallen world, outside the Garden of Eden. They had exactly the same heredity. In fact, several classical commentators believe they were twins. This is based on Adam knowing Eve only once before these young men were born. They had the same fallen nature as their father Adam. They were both born in a state of sin, “and were by nature the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3).

Yet we are told in our text that “the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect.” The Hebrew word “respect” means “look upon with favor” (Strong, number 8159). Dr. Keil said, “The reason for the different reception of the two offerings was the state of mind towards God with which the two offerings were brought…Not, indeed in the fact that Abel brought a bleeding sacrifice and Cain a bloodless one” (C. F. Keil, Ph.D., Commentary on the Old Testament, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973 reprint, volume I, p. 110). This is partly true. Their “state of mind” was indeed different. But there is more to it than that, because God not only had “respect unto Abel,” but also, “to his offering.” And God not only “had not respect” unto “Cain,” but also He “had not respect” “to his offering.” So, we must say that Abel was “respected” for both reasons (Abel and his offering), and Cain was not respected for both reasons (Cain and his offering). Abel and his offering were looked upon with respect by God. Cain and his offering were not looked upon with respect by God. I think we must carefully distinguish the fact that there was something acceptable in both Abel and his offering, and something unacceptable in Cain and his offering. I don’t see how we can deal thoroughly with Genesis 4:4-5 without making that distinction. So, let us look at these two men (Cain and Abel) and at their two offerings.

I. First, the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering.

Most classical commentators have noticed that God “had respect” (or “looked with favor”) first at Abel and then at his offering.

“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” (Genesis 4:4; p. 10).

What was there about Abel that God looked favorably upon? It could not have been anything in his own character because he was as much a fallen sinner as his brother. The answer is recorded in Hebrews 11:4,

“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain” (Hebrews 11:4; p. 1301).

God saw Abel’s faith. That is why God looked on him favorably. That is the foundational doctrine of our Protestant and Baptist belief – salvation by faith alone.

“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3; p. 1196).

That verse does not say Abraham believed “things about” God. It says, “Abraham believed God.” W. E. Vine said, “The object of Abraham’s faith was not God’s promise…his faith rested on God Himself” (W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1966 edition, volume II, p. 71).

I have always liked reading the writings of Dr. M. R. DeHaan. He made things clear and simple. Dr. DeHaan said, “Cain was not an atheist. He believed in God as much as Abel did. But while Cain believed in a God, he did not believe God” (M. R. DeHaan, The Days of Noah, Zondervan Publishing House, 1971 reprint, p. 22). As we look at the famous conversions of history, we see that all of them believed in God before they were converted. That was true of the Apostle Paul, Augustine, Luther, Bunyan, Whitefield, Wesley, Spurgeon – all of them. They all believed in the existence of God before they had saving faith – before their faith rested on God in Christ. As an old hymn put it,

My faith has found a resting place,
     Not in device nor creed;
I trust the Ever-living One,
     His wounds for me shall plead.
(“No Other Plea” by Eliza E. Hewitt, 1851-1920).

That was the main thing about Abel. He didn’t just believe in the existence of God. He did not rest in a “device” or “creed.” He trusted and rested in the “Ever-living One” Himself. As it was with Abraham, who “believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness,” so it was with Abel. He was accepted on the basis of His faith, which rested on God Himself.

“And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering
     (Genesis 4:4).

God looked favorably on Abel, who trusted Him by faith. But the Bible then says, “And to his offering.” God also looked favorably on Abel’s offering. That is very important also. Abel offered some of the best of his sheep. God looked favorably on the sacrifice of those sheep. Why? Because Abel’s offering looked back to the sacrifice that occurred when God made coats of skin for Abel’s parents (Genesis 3:21). So, Abel’s sacrifice looked back to that. Also, Abel’s sacrifice looked forward – to the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, to

“the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”
     (John 1:29; p. 1115).

Thus, Abel’s blood-sacrifice looked back to the coats of skin, and forward to Christ on the Cross.

“And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering”
     (Genesis 4:4).

Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
     Now ransomed from sin and a new work begun,
Sing praise to the Father and praise to the Son,
     Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
(“Saved by the Blood of the Crucified One” by S. J. Henderson, 1902).

II. Second, the Lord did not have respect unto Cain and to his offering.

Please read Genesis 4:5 aloud, ending with the word “respect.”

“But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect”
     (Genesis 4:5; p. 10).

First, we are told that God did not respect (or look with favor) on Cain. What was wrong with Cain? I think that Hebrews 11:4 makes that clear.

By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain” (Hebrews 11:4; p. 1301).

Cain believed in the existence of God, but he did not have faith in God. We know that he believed in God’s existence because Genesis 4:3 says that he “brought of the fruit of the ground an offering to the Lord.” We also know that Cain had a lengthy conversation with God in the verses that follow. So it is clear that Cain believed in God, but he did not trust Him by faith.

Then, second, God did not look with favor on Cain’s offering. That is plain and clear in verse five,

“But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect”
     (Genesis 4:5).

God did not look with favor on Cain’s offering “of the fruit of the ground.” Why not? It should be obvious to anyone who has read the Bible that God did not respect Cain’s offering because it was not a blood sacrifice. Dr. DeHaan said,

Remember, Cain was not an atheist…up until the murder of his brother, Cain was evidently earnest, sincere, and very religious…There is every reason to believe that the offering Cain brought was a beautiful offering. It consisted of the “fruit of the ground” (Genesis 4:3). It represented much love and sweat and labor to produce these fruits…Now contrast with this the offering of Abel. It was a lamb…a bloody, gory offering – a bleeding lamb, repulsive and unappealing. Cain’s offering, beautiful and appealing as it was, could not avail and was rejected by God because he ignored the blood. His was a religion of unbelief [in the Blood] (DeHaan, ibid., p. 23).

“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain” (Hebrews 11:4).

By faith! Faith in what? Faith in the coming Christ, who “died for our sins according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3).

“And without shedding of blood is no remission”
     (Hebrews 9:22; p. 1299).

It was as true in the time of Cain and Abel as it is today! Nothing has changed!

“Without shedding of blood is no remission”
     (Hebrews 9:22).

Why did Cain refuse to bring a blood sacrifice? Because he didn’t believe it was necessary! What could be clearer from the verses we have read in the fourth chapter of Genesis? Cain thought he didn’t need a blood sacrifice! But he was wrong!

If you hope to be saved, you must come to God through the Blood sacrifice of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. You must be broken and humbled, and realize that what you have been bringing to God is your own human works, that you are trying to please God by what you do. Instead, you must trust Christ, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” and manifested on earth in due time, “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (Revelation 13:8; Acts 2:23).

Christ was pictured in the bleeding sacrifice that Abel brought. Human works of self-righteousness were pictured in the bloodless offering of Cain.

Oh, I beg you today, do not go “in the way of Cain” (Jude 11). Do not try to be saved by learning things about God in Christ. Do not try to be saved by doing religious things. Yes, you should come to church. Yes, you should read the Bible and pray. But none of those religious activities can save you.

You must humble yourself. You must see that you are a lost sinner. You must give up on your own good works and your plans to do some good thing for God. All of that is trash in God’s sight. You must be humbled. You must be brought to Jesus. You must rest on Him by faith. You must be enabled to have faith in Him,

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

You must be enabled to sing with real sincerity,

I am coming, Lord! Coming now to Thee!
     Wash me, cleanse me in the blood
That flowed on Calvary.
     (“I Am Coming, Lord,” by Lewis Hartsough, 1828-1919).

Oh, how I pray that you will be convinced of your sin, and then trust Jesus. He loves you. Trust Him. He will not reject you. He will clothe you in His righteousness and cleanse your sin with His Blood. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). Oh, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!” God bless you for Jesus’ sake. Amen.