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. (Hebrews 11:4, NKJV)
Vital teaching is given here on the nature of faith and worship that is “by faith.” First, we learn what is evident from Cain and Abel; not all worship pleases God (Gen. 4:4-5). Why? Because not all worship is “by faith.” Faith results from hearing God’s word and following it (Rom. 10:17). Abel did that, but Cain did not. Like Abel, we must hear and follow God’s word concerning acceptable worship. Otherwise, we follow Cain’s path of worthless, faithless worship. Second, God testified Abel was righteous based on his gifts. God said Abel’s “by faith” worship pleased Him (cf. Heb. 11:6). The question for us is, “Who is bearing witness that our worship is by faith and pleasing to God?” We can rule out our personal feelings. Cain felt his worship was good (see his angry reaction, Gen. 4:5). Acceptable worship is not defined by how a person feels about it, or by how he feels when he offers it. Billions of souls feel their worship pleases God, yet that does not make it so (Prov. 14:12). God’s word testifies that worship in spirit and truth is “by faith” (Jno. 4:23-24). All other worship, by definition, is not by faith. What is God testifying about the gifts we bring Him? Are they “by faith,” or are they faithless?
Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. (Genesis 4:16, NKJV)
Cain murdered his brother Abel, “because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous” (1 Jno. 3:12). As a fugitive and a vagabond, Cain left the presence of God, finally dwelling east of Eden in the land of Nod (“wanderings”) (Gen. 4:12-16). Thus, east of Eden is used as a metaphor for a life damaged by sinful choices, of a life that is lived away from God, needing redemption. Since all of us have sinned, we have all lived “east of Eden,” wandering aimlessly in the darkness and vanity and death of sin. Yet, there is mercy available to us all who have wandered east of Eden. God gave Cain a mark to identify him, lest he be unjustly killed (Gen. 4:15). In Christ Jesus, God’s mercy is offered to the whole world (Matt. 11:28-30). Through His gospel we escape sin’s death and its punishment, and we inheritance eternal life. Stop wandering east of Eden, and come to Christ, by whom sinners are given access to the garden of God (Rev. 22:1-3, 17).
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?” (Genesis 4:8–9, NKJV)
Cain tried to evade the force of God’s question by lying to God and implying he was not his brother’s guardian. Cain hated his brother and murdered him “because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous” (1 Jno. 3:11-15). Hatred destroys life (“whoever hates his brother is a murderer”, 1 Jno. 3:15). Love protects life (“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren”, 1 Jno. 3:16). Remember that you are your brother’s keeper. Not only are we to love and protect our fleshly brothers and sisters, but even more so, our brethren in Christ. Guard and protect your brethren, do not hate them. Out of love be a protector of life, not a murderer, because “you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 Jno. 3:15).