Friday, August 28, 2009

Law Vs. Grace Pt.2 - Cain and Abel

This is part 2 of Law and Grace. Enjoy.

Genesis 4:3-7
In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."

What do you notice in these passages?
a) BOTH wanted to offer to God
b) Cain brought some fruits of the soil
c) Abel brought fat portions from the firstborn of his flock
d) God had favour on Abel and his offering but not on Cain and Cain’s offering
f) Cain became angry and his face was downcast
g) God rebukes Cain that what Cain did was wrong
h) God says ONLY to Cain that sin is crouching at his door

These are 2 brothers. Both with clear-cut motives. Good motives to make an offering to God. Whether for righteousness or just a mere offering, we do not know. Neither is there any record that God clothed Abel with garments of skin.

But what is clear is this – both men offered to God.

Cain’s Fruit Of Self Effort Cannot Please God
Please remember at this point of time, the Law of Moses has not come in yet. This may have taken place 20-30 years after the fall in Eden. The curse on the ground is still in effect. Man had to worked the ground to feed his mouth. Notice Cain offered what was curse: The ground. The ground was cursed because God has curse man that it is with his sweat that he works the ground. “Sweat” is synonym with stress and hard labour. This means Cain tried to please God with his works.

Here Cain offers his fruits to God. He worked the ground. Waters it. Puts manure on it. He sweats. He might even have injured himself a few times in the process, as there are no tools. No cangkul, no irrigation, no best known way to bear fruits.

Yet somehow he produces them and offers them to God.

His offering speaks of what he does. The effort he puts in. It describes all the pain and toil that he went through. It was his ‘ministry’ if you can call it that. It was his calling. It was his duty. It was not only his effort, but his self-worth. His work defines him.

Abel’s Fat Portions Speak Of God’s Mediator For Man
Abel offers the fat portions from his flock.
Abel was born with sin. He needed a mediator. A perfect and unblemished lamb. And as much as the Bible doesn’t say lambs, I think we all know it was fat portions from his flock of lambs.

One here must appreciate that God had to clothe Adam and Eve when they had sin in order that they could overcome their nakedness and shame. God clothed them with skin of an animal. An animal had to die in a substitution death for Adam and Eve so that Adam and Eve will have covering over what they did. God provided this death as a means of his grace. That animal we all know from what Abel offered was a lamb. This point to fact that Abel wanted to please God by telling God he was gracious!

The lamb speaks of a relationship – a shepherd and the lamb. It talks about how God (as a shepherd) deals with his people. That lamb talks about Jesus’ perfection and goodness. How unblemished and perfect it is.

It speaks of the quality of the mediator and not the offerer. It speaks of sacrificial love and not human effort. And God showed favour on the unblemished flock. Abel’s acceptance was based upon the lamb, not his own merit.

The Works Of Flesh Is Prideful
Cain was obviously not too happy about being rejected.
After all he had good intentions. He worked hard to please God.
Imagine having grown up as a boy, and having your mom and dad talk about Eden and how at the fall, God made garments of skin for them. Adam and Eve might have even shown Cain the garments.

Yet Cain had the strange idea to offer fruits. To offer self-effort. To offer his best is filthy rag. And when his filthy rag were rejected, instead of realising why he failed, he was angry at God and with Abel.

God Rebukes Cain And Not Abel
God said to Cain - If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."

When I was younger I always thought that it was Cain that withheld the best from God. I was always previously taught that Abel gave his best, but Cain offered some. But now I realise that that could not be.

Cain was not able to offer his best because he offered himself – his effort, his results, his fruit – the focus was always on himself. And God said it straight to Cain’s face that Cain would have been accepted if he offered the right sacrifice. The fruit of self-effort CANNOT please God.

Even Hebrews testify about Abel’s offering: Hebrews 11:4
By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.

Earlier we established that there was no clear understanding why the offerings were made, but despite that, IT WAS STILL COUNTED AS RIGHTEOUSNESS to Abel!

Sin Crouches At The Door Of Self-Effort
What many Christians do not know is this:
Your self-effort arouses your sinful nature.

1 Corinthians 15:56

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

At the time of Cain and Abel, the Law of Moses have not been given.
But you must realise what sin does.
Romans 7:11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.

Sin seizes the commandments (Law of Moses) and condemns you to death.
Hence if a person is offering self-effort, the more:-
i) unrighteous he would become
ii) realise the more sinful he is
iii) more powerless to turn from sin
iv) basically give up changing

But if you offer like Abel, you get the opposite:-
i) righteousness apart from the law & self-effort!
ii) focuses on the Perfection of Jesus
iii) gain power to overcome sin – for you are not under law, but under grace
iv) you are transformed by beholding His face

You see, God is more concerned about the perfection of your offering, than the amount of trouble, sleepless nights and effort you put in.
He is more concerned about you having Christ than you having deeds.

There is a place for deeds – but only in the way God approves.
There is no room for law and self effort.

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