Commentary by Jack Kelley
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 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.” (Genesis 4:2-7)
From the Scriptures it appears that Cain knew how to bring an acceptable offering to the Lord. This is one of the clues that leads me to believe the Lord introduced a form of what would become the Levitical System right after the fall. There had to be a way for His earliest children to set aside their sins until the Redeemer He had promised to send (Gen. 3:15) came to solve the sin problem permanently. But although he knew what was right, Cain hadn’t done it and the Lord warned him that if he didn’t change there would be serious consequences. He didn’t and there were.
One of the tools used by theologians to help them understand the Lord’s Word is called “The Principle Of First Mention”. It holds that the first time an important matter is mentioned in the Bible, the context in which it appears often contains information vital to our understanding of His Word in general, not just to the specific instance. The issue in Genesis 4 is being accepted by God by doing the right thing.
Cain’s experience shows us that the Lord doesn’t condemn us for failing to do what is right without first teaching us what is right. It bears repeating that Cain knew what was right, but didn’t do it. Therefore he was acting with volition, consciously choosing a different way than the Lord had shown him.
I don’t think this is something that’s unique to Cain. There are several specific New Testament references to people who know what is right but don’t do it. I’m not talking about the sins we all commit, where we purposely do something that we know is displeasing to God. I’m talking about major disobedience that carries huge consequences. Jude called this following the Way of Cain. (Jude 1:11) Some of these people are outside the Church and some are inside. In this study, we’ll take a look at those on the outside, because the consequences of their behavior has affected all of society.
Knowing What’s Right Vs. Doing What’s Right
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. (Romans 1:18-19).
This passage in Romans is not about people who never heard the truth about God and in ignorance came up with some alternate explanation for who we are and how we got here. This is about men who knew the truth and suppressed it. They knew what was right because God made it plain to them. But they not only didn’t do it, they tried to hide it so that others wouldn’t discover it. They compounded the Way of Cain and ruined our world.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:20-23)
God has made His presence known to man, and eliminated all our excuses. These men knew God but rejected Him, and when they did four things began to happen, all of them bad.
First, their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. This means that they lost the ability to reason where the things of God are concerned. Remember Psalm 14:1, The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” A foolish person lacks the ability to reason and relies on wishful thinking. And second, they stopped worshiping the Creator in favor of the Creation.
These men held themselves out as wise, learned men, who had come up with a superior alternative to what they call the fables and fiction of the Bible. They called themselves scientists, although by definition science requires observation, and they’ve never observed their theory in action. What they were able to observe is that left alone, all things proceed from order into chaos, or devolve, and yet their theory requires things to go the opposite direction, evolving from chaos into order, without any outside assistance. Their’s is a natural law that violates natural law.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. (Romans 1:24-25)
Third and fourth, they became sexually immoral and materialistic. If this had only happened to a few, we could have seen how different from the rest of us they had become. But since their theory effectively does away with God, it caught on among others who were seeking an alternative to Him, and after a relatively few years it worked its way into the educational systems of the world in the guise of science. In order to suppress the truth, scientists and educators made sure it was the only thing taught in our schools, and after a few generations no one even thought to question it. Even many of the leading theologians went along, seeing their theory as being more sophisticated and more intellectually appealing than God’s Word. Soon this theory that’s never been observed or proven became as fact.
Seeking to end their troublesome conflict with God’s Word for good, they got Him kicked out of the educational system, perverting our legal system along the way. As they did, the standard of morality began to decline, and before long the age of materialism was upon us followed by the sexual revolution. Then pornography went public and became an accepted part of our entertainment. Soon, half of all marriages were ending in divorce. 40 million unborn children were put to death for the sake of convenience. (Anyone can look at an ultrasound and know intuitively that it depicts a human life. It took experts who know what is right but refuse to do it to convince us otherwise.) Children who were brought into the world were abandoned to the very schools that had played a major role in causing the problem.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. (Romans 1:26-27)
When these men saw evidence of the cause and effect relationship that Paul had warned them about, they worked to suppress it as well. They called these judgments from God alternative lifestyles, as proper as any other choice, and began teaching our children to accept and even celebrate them. They passed laws against thinking of them in any other way, in some instances making it a crime for us to remind them of God’s word.
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32)
It’ll All Be Over Soon
As a society we’ve acquired such depraved minds that we don’t even see what’s happening to us. We should know that we’re on a down hill slide to destruction, but we keep getting worse and worse, applauding behavior that we would have condemned in disgust only a generation ago.
Since the first judgments haven’t turned mankind back to God, a final, much more serious one is coming. This one is so bad that the Lord will remove His Church from out of the midst of it to protect us from it’s effect. (1 Thes. 1:9-10) Jesus said that it would be so bad that not one living soul would survive it unless he puts an end to it at the appointed time. (Matt. 24:22)
Already we can see signs of it building among us. But as bad as it is, it’s nothing compared to what it will be. In Paul’s day the Greek Empire was in the last days of it’s decline, gasping under the weight of the same kind of decay that’s in evidence everywhere in our world today. And Paul already saw it coming upon the Roman Empire, although the worst of it was still several hundred years away for them. In each of these world Empires people’s hearts had become so hardened and their minds so depraved that they couldn’t even figure out what was happening to them. It’s the same today.
And contrary to the wishes of my friends in the Charismatic and Emerging Church movements, the Bible mentions no great revival at the end of the age to right all our wrongs, heal all our diseases, and clean up our mess in time to hand it over the the Messiah, all bright and shiny. The reason people from those movements don’t want you studying prophecy is that their version of the End Times can not be found there.
Contrary to what they preach, this is what the Lord told us to expect. He said that in the last days the believing Church would have little strength but would keep His word and not deny His name. He said He would come for us soon and to hold on until He does. (Rev. 3:8,11) On the other hand, the apostate church would consider itself wealthy and in need of nothing, not realizing that they’re wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. All the while He stands knocking at their door trying to get in. Unable to do so, He will spew them out of His mouth. (Rev. 3:16,17,20).
None of this had to happen, of course. It all started when a few men who knew what was right decided not to do it. And the rest, as they say, is history. It’s hard to believe that all of our society’s sexual immorality, its materialism and greed, the decay of its educational system, its disregard for the value of human life, and its celebration of alternative lifestyles, all stem from its decision to ignore what it knows is right and refuse to do it. But that’s exactly what’s happened. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, worshiping and serving created things rather than our Creator. It’s the Way of Cain. Selah 03-29-08