I have always been puzzled by the record in Genesis 4 concerning Cain and Abel bringing an offering to God – how come Cain took the lead to do it, he worked really hard to present something to God, and he was all-in-all “a good person”, but God rejected his offering? On the other hand, Abel didn’t do much: he just raised sheep and slew one of them to give to God as an offering – but his offering was accepted by God!
These days it is becoming more clear that what Cain did was to be presumptuous before God, rejecting His ordained way for man to come to God and inventing his own way to please God. Abel was the first priest of God, and Cain was the first one who invented a religion.
Cain invented a religion according to his own concept and opinion, which were motivated by Satan, and it became “Cain’s way” (see Jude 11). Religion is man’s way to worship God through man’s own efforts and according to man’s opinion and concept, yet without Christ.
Religion starts with worshiping God and ends up with killing man (especially those who are accepted by God since they worship God in the way ordained by God). Eventually, Cain left God’s presence and became a wanderer and fugitive on earth, which shows us that religion causes man to leave God’s presence and have the deep sense within that he has nowhere to go!
Our real dwelling place is God’s presence (see Psa. 90:1), and whenever we leave His presence we will try to produce something, a culture, that is without God – because we are empty and lonely within! We need to stay in God’s presence, worship Him, and enjoy Him as our everything, just like Abel did!
“The Way of Cain” – Cain Invented a Religion
Adam and Eve have received the gospel from God, and they spoke it again and again to their children. The way ordained by God for man to come to Him and be justified before Him was clear: they needed to bring a sacrifice, a pure lamb as a type of Christ, who has to die for them and for God’s satisfaction.
But Cain didn’t follow God’s way of salvation (the bleeding sacrifice) but continued man’s fall by presumptuously offering the fruit of his own labor to God (Gen. 4:3). Even though it is Cain who took the lead to offer something to God, he worshiped God in his own way. Cain basically invented a religion, his own way of worshiping God according to his human concept, feeling, and opinion, which were all motivated by Satan (Jude 11; 1 John 3:12).
Abel put his trust in the offering, in the lamb dying in his place, but Cain put his trust in his labor and effort. “The way of Cain” mentioned in Jude 11 is to do good to please God and worship Him presumptuously by our own effort and according to our own invented way under the devil’s motivation.
God’s way of salvation is through the redeeming blood of Christ, and any other way man takes to be saved and justified before God is a new “religion”, rejected by God. Satan subtly motivates and instigates man to invent their own religion – there is a wide market of religions today, all of which are not God’s way of salvation and are therefore rejected by God.
Whenever man trusts in his own efforts and in his own “good way invented by him” to approach God and be justified before Him, he is religious and even pious but God is not happy with him.
Cain was in the flesh, trusting in the fruit of his own labor before God, but Abel put his trust in his offering, boasting not in the flesh but in Christ Jesus (typified by the sacrificial lamb)! We need to be those like Abel (in the Old Testament) and Paul (in the New Testament), not trusting in ourselves, having no confidence in the flesh, but boasting and trusting only in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:3).
Religion Begins with the Worship of God and Ends with Killing Man
As good as a religion may be, and as sound as it may seem to others, every religion begins with worshiping God and ends with killing man. We see this in the example of Cain and Abel: because Abel presented offerings with the shedding of blood according to God’s revelation and was accepted by God, he incurred Cain’s jealousy and hatred and was killed by Cain (Gen. 4:4-9).
Cain started by taking the lead to worship God (but in his own way, being presumptuous) and ended with killing his own brother whose offering was accepted by God. Throughout the ages many genuine worshipers of God have been killed by the religious ones.
The Lord Jesus told the Pharisees (who were the religious ones in His time) that it was the religious ones who killed the righteous ones throughout the times (see Matt. 23:34-35). Saul (before he became Paul) was very zealous for the law of God to imprison and persecute the genuine believers in Christ – he was religious to the uttermost, but he ended up persecuting the real believers.
All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12) not merely by the unbelievers, but even more by those who have a religion, a man-made way of worshiping God. Babylon the great, which is the Roman Catholic church (see Rev. 17:6) has killed more genuine Christians than all the Roman emperors and the today’s anti-Christian governments in the world (more than 1.5 million genuine believers).
Religion’s jealousy and hatred for those who are taking God’s way and are accepted by God has been manifested throughout history.
Even today, whenever we are jealous and dislike some of our fellow believers who genuinely enjoy the Lord, we need to repent before the Lord and ask Him to remove any form of religion in us. May we ourselves not be those who persecute or hate those who are pure and genuine in their enjoyment of Christ!
The Result of Religion: Losing the Presence of God and Inventing a Godless Culture
If we read on in Genesis 4 we realize that, as a result of presumptuously worshiping God in his own way, Cain killed his brother Abel, was judged by God, and went out of God’s presence to become a fugitive and a wanderer (Gen. 4:14, 16).
The first result of being religious and of following a man-made way to worship God (while rejecting God’s way of salvation) is that we leave God’s presence and we become wanderers on the earth. Our real dwelling place is the presence of God (see Psa. 90:1), and God has been the dwelling place of all His genuine worshipers throughout the generations.
God’s presence is our home. When we worship God and come to Him in the way ordained by Him, He saves us with His countenance and makes us full of joy (see Psa. 42:5, 11). But when we leave God’s presence, we have a deep sense within that we are wanderers with nowhere to go. In God’s presence we have unspeakable joy, because God Himself is our entertainment, our supply, our protection, and our dwelling place.
But whenever we leave God’s presence and follow a religion (which can also be a religion invented by ourselves to please God), we will produce or invent a culture without God and against God. This is what Cain did: he left God’s presence, was a wanderer on earth, and he and his descendants produced a culture without God (Gen. 4:16-24).
Without God, man vainly tries to find things that would supply him, maintain his living, amuse him, or protect him. Man’s loss of God forced him to invent an anti-God human culture – things like cities (for man’s existence), cattle-raising (for making a living), music (for man’s amusement and entertainment), and weapons (for man’s defense).
Without God, man is a wanderer and is empty inside, vainly trying to be happy, protect himself, make a living, and defend himself.
We need to be those who take refuge in God, enjoy Him as our everything, take Him in as our life supply, depend on Him, and live one with Him so that we may be a real human being in God’s plan fulfilling God’s purpose!
Lord Jesus, save us from trusting in our flesh and being presumptuous when we come to You. Save us from inventing our own “religion”, our own way of coming to You but without the enjoyment of Christ! Continue to shine on us and expose any religiousness in our being. Save us from our own religion and from any kind of religion. Lord, we want to worship You and come to You in Your ordained way – through Jesus Christ. You are our enjoyment, our protection, our supply, our joy, and our dwelling place.
References and Further Reading
- Inspiration: bro. Dick Taylor’s speaking in this message and portions from, Life-study of Genesis (msg. 24), as quoted in the Holy Word for Morning Revival on the Crystallization Study of Genesis (1), week / msg 10, Abel, Enosh, and Enoch.
- Buy this Morning Revival book (vol. 2) here.
- Further reading:
# Truth Lessons—Level Two, vol. 2, lesson. 14.
# The footnotes in the Recovery Version for Gen. 4:7-14.
- Hymns on this topic:
# To be set free from the bond of sin, / To have the joy and peace within, / To live a life full of meaning, / Believe into the Lord. / Man’s way to please God—religion; / God’s way—a living Person; / Christ is God’s way of salvation; / Believe and you’ll be saved.
# Calling is opposed as it was then / By the camp of religion. / But His witnesses kept calling Him: / They weren’t stopped by opposition. / We must be like Stephen then; / Jesus was his everything. / Even while they martyred him, / He was calling on the highest name.
# Not a dead religion serving, / But in Christ as life to live; / Not theology dispensing, / But a living Christ to give. / Not the knowledge of mere doctrine, / But the message Christ should be; / Not the gifts, the forms, the teachings, / But God’s Christ-reality.