Two Religions (Genesis 4:1–16 Sermon Audio and Transcript)

This is the audio and approximate transcript (based on my speaking notes) from a sermon I preached yesterday evening from the Genesis 4:1–16 account of Cain and Abel. The highlight is towards the end, when we see how Abel points us to Christ and His work for us.

(My apologies for the occasionally variable audio quality – there were some drop-outs with the radio mic and I had to splice from my own iPad recording at a few points.)

Preface

When I last spoke earlier in the year, we looked at Genesis chapters 2 and 3. We saw the deception of Eve by the Serpent in the Garden, and the deliberate and wilful disobedience of Adam. Sin entered the world through Adam, and death through sin. We noted how in the first recorded Gospel, God promised a Seed. We saw that this seed was the Lord Jesus Christ, who would destroy all the works of the evil one, wash away the sins of his people with His blood, and clothe them with the royal robes of His perfect righteousness.

This evening, we shall see the corruption of sin and death being outworked in the lives of Cain and Abel, Adam’s sons. And we shall see again how the Old Testament scriptures testify of Jesus and His work.

Genesis 4:1–16

1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the Lord.” 2 Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.

6 So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

8 Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?”

He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

10 And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. 11 So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.”

13 And Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! 14 Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.”

15 And the Lord said to him, “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him.

16 Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden.

Amen.

Introduction

Our text presents two distinct religions, two utterly different ways of approaching God and living before Him. One is a religion of works; the other of faith.

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Understanding the Role of the Pastor: Called to Proclaim the Word

I came across this description of the ideal pastor (courtesy of The Brothers of John the Steadfast), which I thought my pastor friends would appreciate:

The ideal pastor preaches exactly twenty minutes with an hour’s content. He condemns sin, but never offends anyone. He works from 8 am to midnight, and also serves as the church janitor. He makes $40 a week, wears good clothes, and donates $30 a week to the church. He is 29 years old and has 40 years of experience. He is a strong leader, yet also follows everyone’s advice. He can effectively relate to all teenagers and spends all of his time with the elderly. He is tall and short, thin and heavyset, and has one brown eye and one blue eye. He makes 15 house calls a day, regularly visits the hospital, and is always in his office.

The article from which it came, by Pastor Matt Richard, goes on to make a rather more serious point, quoting a letter sent to young seminarians by David Petersen. Great counsel for all pastors:

You are a servant of the Word. Follow Jesus. The Way of the Cross is a lonely, narrow path but it leads to heaven. Be more afraid of God than you are of the people. It is not the one who signs the check who provides daily bread. Do the right thing. Tell the Truth. Suffer the consequences. That is what a servant of Christ does.

It is the Preaching Office. Don’t forget that. Your relationship to the congregation is the same as the prophets to Israel. Work on teaching and converting your own people– which includes scores of folks not on the books. Preach the Gospel to them — from the pulpit, the podium, the bedside, and behind the desk. They come looking for marital advice? Tell them about Jesus dying for them. They come looking for sympathy and a listening ear? Tell them about Jesus dying for them. They have a new baby, lost their jobs, are afraid of retirement? Tell them about Jesus dying for them. No matter what the circumstances, what the situation, you preach Christ crucified. Never compromise the simple Truth that has saved you.

Believe your own preaching. Jesus died also for you. He called you to this Ministry. He knows what he is doing. As good or as bad as it gets, it will not last forever. He is coming back to claim His own.

Still here? Go and read the rest of the article. It’s worth a few minutes of your time.

He Gave Them New Clothes (Genesis 2:4–3:24 Sermon Audio)

I was recently asked to preach at relatively short notice, so what to do? I dusted off my He Gave Them New Clothes post and added an introduction to turn it into a sermon proper. This is the result:

The sermon itself starts at 13 minutes 20 seconds into the recording. It is preceded by two Bible readings – a few verses from Luke 24, and then the main text from Genesis 2:4–3:24.

He Gave Them New Clothes

A narrative meditation upon the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience, from Gen. 2:8–3:24. Audio from a sermon based on this post is available.

They were both naked, the man and his wife, and they were not ashamed.

They are in the midst of a garden paradise, recipients of the bountiful goodness of the Lord God. He had created them and placed them there with a blessing: ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’

Near to where they stand is the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Before the woman had been created, the Lord God had commanded the man concerning that latter tree, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’

Also in the garden is a serpent. He is more cunning than any beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

The serpent speaks. The woman listens.

‘Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden”?’

An ostensibly innocuous question. And the woman has the answer, so she thinks.

She converses with the serpent.

‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden, but of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.”’

The woman overstates the prohibition.

Perhaps this is her error, or perhaps it was the fault of her husband when he relayed to her the Lord God’s command.

One of them, certainly, had added a hedge to God’s word – one tiny addition. For God had commanded the man not to eat of the tree’s fruit, but He had said nothing about not touching it.

(How easily we add to what God has spoken.)

With that one addition – oh how small and seemingly insignificant! – the woman opens the door to her adversary the Devil.

The serpent, liar and murderous deceiver that he is, assures the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’

And so the woman entertains temptation and gazes at the tree.

What a beautiful tree! How good it would be for food!

Enticed by her desire to become wise like God, she reaches out and takes its fruit.

(See, she is unharmed! The serpent was right! Surely there is no danger here.)

Having suffered no consequence from touching the fruit, she eats it. In contravention of God’s command, a fatal act.

The woman also gives to her husband, who is with her.

(Why has he not intervened to keep her from harm? Does he not see the danger?)

The man had heard the clear words of God’s voice forbidding him to eat this fruit. He had heard the Lord God’s prescient warning, ‘For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’.

In wilful, unbelieving rebellion against his Creator, the man raises the fruit to his lips and eats.

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Law, Gospel, and a Good Hymn

What makes a good hymn?

We’d like it to be skilfully crafted. And it must be set to a fitting tune – preferably one we can sing.

But I suggest that the primary requirement of a good hymn is that it should clearly articulate biblical truth.

We remember what we sing.

A poor hymn can confuse us, lead us astray. A good hymn strengthens our knowledge of the Christian Faith.

What is that faith?

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A Second Opinion on that ‘Justification by Tithing’ Sermon

This is the final post in a series responding to a sermon given by a local Purpose Driven pastor. The first examined the astonishing claim that ‘Faith is giving when I don’t have it’. The second corrected a gross misinterpretation of Hebrews 11:4 that taught works righteousness and justification by tithing. The third highlighted from the Gen. 4 account of Cain and Abel’s offerings the contrast between works-righteousness and grace through faith.

Astute readers may have noticed that my previous three posts have all focused on one very small portion of a sermon preached at Living Hope Community Church, here in the sunny* Isle of Man. Could so many fundamental errors really have arisen in such a short segment? Have I been unfair in claiming that the 44 minutes of this alleged sermon on faith ‘achieved the remarkable feat of avoiding any mention of the proper object of Christian faith: Christ, and His life, death and resurrection for sinners’?

Well, my wife of 19 years and partner in crime suggested to me that this sermon was sufficiently notable that it might even be of interest to Chris Rosebrough of the Fighting for the Faith programme on Pirate Christian Radio. His on-air verdict? Well, you’ll have to listen to find out…

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Cain and Abel, Law and Gospel

This is the third post in a series responding to a sermon given by a local Purpose Driven pastor. The first examined the astonishing claim that ‘Faith is giving when I don’t have it’. The second corrected a gross misinterpretation of Hebrews 11:4 that taught works righteousness and justification by tithing.

With the understanding gained from the previous two posts, we now turn to the Genesis 4 account of Cain and Abel. We shall see so clearly there the contrast between faith and works.

First though, here is a longer extract from the Purpose Driven sermon we have been examining, showing the wider context of the errors previously refuted:

The fourth attribute of faith is this: faith is giving when I don’t have it.

Now you’re discovering why the pastors are so uptight.

‘Now by faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith, he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings.’

Both offerings were acceptable. They were the first fruits of the land for Cain. And the first fruits of the flock for Abel. They were good offerings. But what made them acceptable to God was the way in which they were given: one man giving out of a sense of duty; one man giving out of a sense of the love that he had for his God.

[Anecdote about a boy with his hand stuck in a vase because he will not let go of the coin within.]

You see, all too often that is our attitude as well. We cling to the riches of the world. I’m sure that many of you tithe to the church. And that’s great. But when faith is exercised, our attitude shifts from being like the attitude of Cain, who gave out of a sense of duty – give 10%, it’s your tithe, forget it. We want to see faith giving, like Abel, that is generous, that is of the heart, because we want to invest in what God is doing. We want to be like the widow who gave when she had nothing. And sometimes when we hold the riches of the world in our hands, we are just like the little boy [of the previous anecdote]. We’re trapped. But when we let go, we can experience true freedom.

From time-to-time, you probably hear Jonathan [the lead pastor] – most of the time you’ll probably hear Jonathan – harping on about tithing. And that’s a good thing. So he should.

But Abel offered the first fruits. He gave the best of what he had to God. And it was credited to him as righteousness. You see, tithing is not about impressing your friends. It’s not about satisfying some form of guilt. Tithing is about giving the best of what you have to a God who sees that as righteous. As credible.

We can encourage faith giving. Let’s not even call it tithing. Let’s give from our faith. That is what generosity really is.

It is a wonderful thing for Christians to give willingly. ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Cor. 9:7). ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35). But Christians are under no duty to tithe, let alone to give what they do not have. True Christian giving is voluntary, arising from a pure Gospel motivation: we love much because we have been loved so greatly. Yet there was no Gospel in this sermon. Nothing at all about Christ and His loving work for us.

My intent, though, is not to focus on the burdensome exhortations to giving evidenced here and sadly predominating throughout the last third of the sermon. (The seeker-sensitive mute the Law and veil the Gospel for fear of giving offence, yet they are nevertheless proud to solicit money through the most guileful of means. Those who cite the widow who gave all she had would do well also to recall Jesus’ immediately preceding words concerning those who devour widows’ houses.)

Rather, the purpose of this post is to see what we can learn from the account of Cain and Abel’s offerings. Is it true that Cain gave ‘out of a sense of duty’, whereas Abel ‘out of a sense of the love that he had for his God’? Is giving-out-of-duty versus giving-out-of-love really the distinction taught by Genesis 4?

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Christ, Our Exceedingly Great Reward

This is the second post in a series responding to a sermon by a local Purpose Driven pastor. The first part, Justified by Faith, Apart from Works, may be of interest to readers for establishing context.

It is not, I think, entirely unreasonable to be alarmed by a sermon that teaches justification by tithing, no matter how affable the preacher:

But Abel offered the first fruits. He gave the best of what he had to God. And it was credited to him as righteousness. You see, tithing is not about impressing your friends. It’s not about satisfying some form of guilt. Tithing is about giving the best of what you have to a God who sees that as righteous.

The primary claim in this allusion to Hebrews 11:4 is that Abel’s offering of his best to God was credited to him as righteousness. In other words, this is an assertion that Abel was justified (that is, declared righteous) by his works.

My previous post, Justified by Faith, Apart from Works, demonstrated the biblical impossibility of such an interpretation, and emphasized the necessity of distinguishing between faith and works. I plan for my next post to look more closely at the Genesis 4 account of Cain and Abel. First though, we must understand Hebrews 11:4:

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.

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Justified by Faith, Apart from Works

I recently listened to a train wreck of a sermon by a local Purpose Driven pastor. In his 44 minutes on the subject of faith, he achieved the remarkable feat of avoiding any mention of the proper object of Christian faith: Christ, and His life, death and resurrection for sinners.

The pastor defined faith by a number of its purported attributes. The fourth was this:

Faith is giving when I don’t have it.

Let’s leave aside the aspect of ‘giving when I don’t have it’, problematic though that is. There is a more fundamental error lurking in this statement.

Notice that the pastor does not say that faith results in my ‘giving when I don’t have it’. Neither does he state that ‘the kind of faith that justifies produces a desire to give’. Rather, he asserts that faith is giving. This is to confuse faith with the fruit of faith, namely the works that faith produces.

Though it might at first seem as if I am splitting hairs, maintaining the distinction between faith and works – especially with respect to justification – is foundational to a proper understanding of biblical Christianity (cf. the epistles to the Romans, Galatians, etc.). This distinction was a lynchpin of the Reformation. Against the Reformers’ emphasis on justification by grace alone (unmerited favour) through faith alone (apart from works), Rome erroneously insisted that justification is ‘not by faith alone, which some incorrectly teach, but faith that works through love’ (see the Pontifical Confutation of the Augsburg Confession).

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Forgiveness

Sound words on forgiveness from Kevin DeYoung and Chris Brauns. View article →

Better still is the realization that, not only is our having been forgiven a gracious gift from God, but so too is our repentance (cf. Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25).

Our love for one another arises from the Gospel – we have been shown so great a love by God in Christ, and we are now united in Him by the Holy Spirit. It is thus only the proclamation and hearing of the Gospel that will bring about love for one another. We love and forgive because we have been loved greatly and forgiven much.