Christ or Cain…I John

For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.  Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.  Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.  We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.   Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.( I John 3:11-15)

Love is the fruit of eternal life. The Love of God, for God and man is born in the heart of the believer. The presence of indwelling love for the brethren is one of the three signs of eternal life, it is how we “know that we have passed from death to life”.

There are only two types of people, God lovers or God haters. This is the teaching of the Bible all the way through, to the end. This concept is found in the Ten Commandments, notably in the second commandment of God,

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;  And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.(Exodus 20)

There is no third category of humanity, there are and can only be either God haters, or God lovers. Neutrality is impossible, for indifference to God is the acme of ungodliness, it is pride and hatred according to the Word of God.

In his teaching on the tests of eternal Life, concerning the second test, which is the evidence of  love, John echoes this teaching. To the Lord’s apostle there are only two paradigms for all of humanity ; Christ or Cain.

Love one another, is what we have been hearing from the start, ie the onset of our Christian walk. Love pervades the gospels, the epistles, the story of Jesus, indeed, in the whole concept of God seeing us in our sin and  misery and sending his Son to suffer in our place as a substitute, Love permeates Christian spirituality.

Yes Love is commanded, but even if not it is so implied that since we have been so loved, in such an unworthy state, how could we not gratefully Love one another? The paradigm for those who have truly received the gift of Life is Jesus, whose love for God and for us was acted out in the Incarnation, and on the cross in the giving up of his own life, and in our subsequent adoption into His family.

But John suggests a second paradigm, one which he warns us not to emulate, for it is the sure sign of spiritual death and darkness, that is Cain. We are told that Cain was “of the wicked One”, that is, he lived out his life at the disposal of and  in the character of the Devil.

Cain “slew His brother”. The word “slew” here has a religious and sacramental significance. In other words there is a sense in which Cain offered up his brother as a sacrifice, just as Abel offered up a lamb as a sacrifice. Abel “slew a Lamb”, Cain “slew His brother”.

The whole story of Cain and Abel centers around sacrifice, remember? Both brothers worshipped, both acknowledged God, and both “drew near” with gifts. But God openly accepted Abel’s offering, and openly rejected Cain’s. What was the difference between these two offerings and why was one accepted and the other rejected?

Offerings to God are theological statements. When Abel came before the God appointed altar, with the broken body of a bleeding lamb of the flock in his hands, he was making a statement, “Dear Creator, I have sinned against you and deserve to die for it, under your judgment. But you have appointed a substitute to die in my place and this lamb is a token of that substitute, receive me in the name of the substitute you have appointed”.

This is the theology of the first martyr, substitutionary death, the presupposition of sin and wrath, the necessity for a sacrifice for sin, the humble dependence on the God appointed sacrifice for forgiveness and acceptance, and the patient endurance of persecution for the truth.

But what was the theology of the first murderer? Cain was willing to acknowledge God as his Creator, thus he offered the fruit of the ground which God had blessed, but refused the bloody substitute offering, and rejected the presuppositions that underly it, ie, wrath of God, guilt, death as a penalty for sin, and judgment for sin, satisfied only in the God appointed sacrifice. Unlike Abel, he saw no need for Redemption.

But notice that though perhaps he felt he was above slaying a lamb to offer to God, he didn’t hesitate to slay his brother. In other words, sacrifice is inevitable, someone is going to have to pay for sin, someone is going to be offered up on an altar to a god, if not the true sacrifice to the only true God.

Cain offered Abel up to his own rage, on the altar of his hurt feelings, envy, and rebellion. Thus Cain”slew” his brother. He wouldn’t kill a lamb but he killed his brother. He wouldn’t offer to God but he offered to himself! For humanity sacrifice is going to be offered no matter what!

Why did he slay his brother? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s were righteous…

Cain actually hated his brother for doing rightly, for coming to God in the God appointed way! It was because his brother’s righteousness showed up his own faux righteousness that Cain Killed Abel. He “slew” him for being good, and because He was a sinner!

It was because we are sinners, and Jesus is good, (sinless) that Jesus was slain and offered to God for us.

And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.(Isaiah 53:9-10)

I sat on a plane next to a Lebanese Muslim, a very nice man named Michael. ( He explained to me that often Muslims take “christian” names when immigrating to “fit in”. His real name was Muhammad!). Michael and I began discussing theology, but when I explained to him that Jesus died for us on the cross, he slammed his hand on the little table and proudly declared “We Muslims need no sacrifice!”.

I cautiously replied, “What do you call 9-11 if not a sacrifice to Allah (the god?)” Why are all of these terror acts being perpetrated by people named Ahmed, Mohammed, and Mehmet? Cain is still “slaying” people.

All people worship someone or something, and of course all worship requires sacrifice, there is no question of it, it is inevitable, the only question is, will it be the God appointed sacrifice, or the humanistic , self-serving sacrifice? Humanity is incurably religious in spite of the best efforts of atheists.

Humanists in our nation have disavowed God, the Bible, worship, prayer, and spirituality. They believe the message of the cross is degrading to man’s dignity, with its underlying presupposition of the wrath of God, Divine justice, and the sacrifice of Jesus as a substitute. How degrading to man! Man has “evolved past such primitive and barbaric religion!

But these same secularists have just passed the milestone of the 50 millionth “legal” abortion in the United States alone! Abortion is definitely a sacrifice to a false god.

There are only two paradigms for humanity, Christ, who offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins, to avert the wrath of a Just and Holy God against sin and sinners. He laid down his Life for us! He poured out his life as an offering! He took nothing from us , rather he gave us his life.

Or Cain, who is above and beyond all of that , too “humane” to kill a lamb, too proud to concede guilt and the danger of wrath. Cain wouldn’t own God as anything more than Creator, he needed no redeemer substitute.

But someone had to pay, therefore Cain “slew His brother”, he offered his brother’s life as an offering to his own rage, jealousy, and insecurity.In little and big ways the world is full of Cains, making others pay by killing them.

More in part two-

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2 Responses to Christ or Cain…I John

  1. ali says:

    May G-D help me NEVER to evolve to the point where I do not need this primitive and barbaric religion.

  2. Margaret Webb says:

    Thank you Pastor, this is an excellent explanation of Cain and Abel. It also brings it home to all of us where we are now.
    I truly appreciate your sermons and I pass the emails along to others. I will pass this one along to my Pastor also.
    your sister in Christ

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