Cain was no atheist. When it came time to worship, Cain brought an offering from some of the crops he raised. It was a respectable offering that represented the product of his labors. Abel, on the other hand, brought an offering of the firstborn of his flock. It was a blood offering that recognized the need for substitution.
Observing his brother’s offering Cain may have commented, “What a terrible way to approach God!” Abel might have answered, “Yes, but sin is a terrible thing!” Be that as it may, the only opinion that mattered was God’s. Looking upon the two offerings presented, “The LORD accepted Abel and his gift, but He did not accept Cain and his gift” (Genesis 4:4-5).
Did Abel just happen to choose the right kind of offering, while Cain did not? Was it luck? Was it by accident? Not at all. Hebrews 11:4 tells us, “It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.”
In his commentary on Genesis, John Phillips notes, “Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.’ It is obvious, therefore, that Cain and Abel were not left to their own ideas in deciding how God was to be approached. They had been told.”
The difference between Cain and Abel is that Abel believed God’s Word and acted on his belief. Cain did not. Cain is the father of all who claim belief in God, and yet insist on approaching Him their own way and on their terms. The idea of blood sacrifice is repulsive to them. Righteousness attained by human effort is much more dignified.
But it was Abel’s offering that was accepted by God, not Cain’s. It was Abel who obtained righteousness, not Cain. The religion of Cain is a Christless religion. No sorrow for sin. No sacrifice of blood. No need for a Savior. No call for repentance. It’s a way that seems right, not to God, but to religiously self-righteous man.
The Hebrew writer reminds us that, “Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.” Apparently, dead men do tell tales. Abel tells us that while some try to approach God the way of Cain, the only acceptable way is the Cross.
Christless religion is a dead religious system for spiritually dead people. Reject it and follow the example of Abel who looked forward with eyes of faith to Christ, His cross, and the salvation purchased there for all who believe!
Pastor Todd Weston