“And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering.”
Genesis 4:3, 4
We can learn so many valuable lessons from the world’s first family. One important example is the first record of the worship of Adam and Eve’s sons, Cain and Abel. When it came time for the two sons to bring an offering to the Lord, they brought different offerings which resulted in very different responses from God. Abel was a shepherd, and he brought a sacrifice of one of the flock. Cain was a farmer, and he brought some of the produce from the field. God received Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s. Their actions and God’s reaction help us understand important spiritual principles.
The most important application of this Scripture has to do with the means of personal salvation. Cain’s offering, from the fruit of his garden, was an attempt to be accepted before God based on his personal works. This will never suffice because all that human effort can produce is still the result and product of sinful flesh. Abel’s offering from his flock represented an understanding that his personal works were unacceptable, thus he offered (by faith) the blood of a sacrificial substitution.
There are really only two belief systems when it comes to salvation and forgiveness of sins. Most religions are trusting – either entirely or in part – in some form of human effort or good works. This may take the form of good deeds, church membership, baptism, etc. God does not accept such as a means of atonement. The alternative, which is Bible-based Christianity, trusts completely in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, God’s Lamb. God accepts and forgives those who come to Him, putting their faith in the death of His sinless Son. Cain was trying to please God on his own merit, while Abel was trusting in the sacrifice of another.
This matter of trying or trusting continues to be a relevant concern after salvation. Just as many attempt to find acceptance before God based on human effort, rather than by faith trusting another, the same can be true in our daily Christian lives. Many are trying to please God in the power of their flesh, rather than trusting the Lord to live His life through them. It is always the life of faith in God that is most pleasing to Him.