Adam and Eve were believing parents. Let us not lose sight of that fact, nor of the fact that they believed in Christ.
Before they fell they believed in God; and from this they fell. When they were restored to faith, it was faith in God as He had now revealed Himself as the God of their salvation in Christ. This, by the way, set them apart from the devil and the fallen angels, who in a sense, as James points out, also believe in God. They believe that there is one God. They know His holiness and sovereignty, His might and His mercy. But they do not believe in Him as the God of theirsalvation, for He is not; and they do not trust in Him, nor seek His mercy. Adam and Eve did. They trusted God as He through types and shadows had presented Himself in Christ when He clothed them with skins of animals, and when He gave them to hear of the hatred against Satan that God would place in their hearts, and of the ultimate victory that He would give them in the Seed of the woman.
But a spiritual gap appeared between them and their first-born son, Cain. It was there from his birth, but it did not manifest itself until much later in his life.
Cain had a great deal of what is sometimes called Historical Faith, even as the devil does. He, Cain, saw those cherubim there with the flaming sword. He had heard over and over again on father’s and mother’s knees the story of their expulsion from paradise and the folly of their sin of eating of the forbidden fruit. As a normal child he was filled with inquisitiveness and asked a host of questions. He conformed outwardly to the worship of God that he had been taught by his believing parents to follow. For a time, after he came to years of discretion, he, as they, brought his bloody sacrifice on an altar to God. His father prayed, and he also went through the motions of praying. His-mother and father spoke of God, and he likewise made use of God’s name. At fast there seemed no gap between them, and instead he seemed to be the continuation of the same family as a likeminded believer.
But there came a moment when he became bold to reveal what was in his heart. He had been giving some serious thought to all that which from a child he had been taught. But he found that it was time to break with the establishment, to express himself, to do away with the old things and find a “more meaningful” worship of God. There came a moment when the seed of Adam and Eve’s sin began to sprout forth and show what kind of plant this seed would ultimately produce, not only in the crucifixion of the Son of God—even as Cain killed Abel—but in the man of sin, the son of perdition, the Antichrist in all his violence and opposition to the cause of God’s kingdom, and development of false worship and false doctrines.
A spiritual gap that seemed at first only to threaten to become reality now showed itself as always being there; and that Cain was not the continuation of the line of the seed of the woman broke out into the open.
What was his sin?
It was unbelief as a rejection of Christ. It was rebellion as a refusal to walk in God’s way. It was a further development of the Arminian activities practiced already by Adam and Eve. It was a denial of salvation by grace with an emphatic defense of salvation by works. Is all this saying too much? Consider the facts and cease defending this wicked man and his deed. God taught Adam and Eve (and they taught Cain) that God can be approached only through the shed blood of Christ. Adam and Eve did not find that God was pleased to have a lamb sacrificed on an altar. We never find ways to serve God. We learn them, and then we learn them by sitting at God’s feet, listening to Him as He speaks. God, by slaying the animals to provide a covering for their nakedness, taught them to come to Him in Christ’s blood, that is, in connection with the death of a creature in their stead. Cain broke with that truth when he came with the fruit of his garden. He turned his back upon Christ. In this also he simply refused to walk God’s way; and in effect he said, “God will walk my way.” And as far as the Arminian activities of Adam and Eve are concerned, Cain sought God’s favor by his works rather than by Christ’s blood.
Let us appreciate the fact that it was quite a sacrifice on Cain’s part. At this point in our consideration of history we already begin to forget those words of God that man would eat in the sweat of his brow, and that the ground would bring forth thorns and thistles. What Cain managed to obtain from the cursed ground was not a gift that was there for the taking He had to work hard for it. Food was precious. What he brought was his own hard, back-breaking work. Here was the fruit of hours of toil and something that could not quickly be replaced. It was not a case of taking off the shelf a bit from a bumper crop that had been stored away, or of giving that which would spoil anyway because there was so much that it could not all be eaten within a reasonable time. No, this was the fruit of the field which he obtained in the way of hard work. The word “tiller” in Genesis 4:2, when we read that Cain was a “tiller of the ground” has in it the idea of a servant. The ground is the master, Cain, and with him all mankind, was the servant who had to serve that ground in order to get something out of it. (Being a keeper of sheep as Abel was did not require the same degree of sweat and toil.) It was his works, therefore, that Cain brought to God.
There was work involved in Abel’s sacrifice as well. But the whole point is that Abel came with his lamb or bullock because he believed that we can come to God only in Christ, only in the way of the blood of the cross, only in the way of the payment of the death penalty for us. Cain said in his heart, “Nothing doing! I can please God by my works, and He will accept me because of what I give Him.” Abel said by his sacrifice, “I will be pleasing to God only because of what He gave me in Christ.” Cain came to God with Cain. Abel came to God with Christ. Cain came in unbelief. Abel came in faith in Christ. And Abel’s is the “more excellent sacrifice,” the one that alone pleases God.
Place Cain and Abel side by side in this incident, and you see a spiritual gap which sets them apart as seed of the woman and seed of the serpent. A generation appears that from a spiritual point of view is quite distinct from what manifested itself in believing Adam and Eve, and was seen continued in Abel. Abel died before there could be generations of believers through him; but that sharp division of the whole human race into two spiritual camps began to manifest itself in the very first two sons born to Adam and Eve.
A generation appeared that would seek its well-being by its own works. And alongside of it grew up a generation that would seek salvation by grace. The one, the latter generation, was Christian. The other was the beginning of the Antichristian kingdom. The one asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” The other did not ask. It simply stated, “I am going to do my thing.” The one cried, “God be merciful to me the sinner.” The other boasted, “God ought to be mighty thankful to me for giving Him that which cost me so much energy and toil.” The one said, “I am an awful sinner.” The other said, “Look what good I did!” The one was the spiritual father of the publican in Jesus parable. The other was the spiritual father of the Pharisee. And what a gap—even if you cannot call it a generation gap—there was between Jesus and those miserable Pharisees who found fault with His works, while the fault was in them!
What does it all mean for us?
For one thing, the truth abides that all change is not improvement. Let the churches take note!
We live in a time when the churches on every side are seeking change. They seek doctrinal change, confessional change, liturgical change, and a change in translation to make the Scriptures more “meaningful.” It would be laughable, were it not so serious a matter. Never was there a generation more literate than the present one. Never before was there such an educated generation as ours. Never before were children, our sons and daughters, given to delving into such deep scientific and philosophical matters. And these need the truth of God’s Word in simple terms that a five year old can understand it!! Shame on us!
We dare to Praise ourselves for our intellectual and educational advances, and then dare to cry of our difficulty in understanding spiritual matters. Is it then due to the translation, the wording, the beautiful old English form of speaking, which in the field of otherliterature we laud to the sky? Is the reason not a spiritual one rather than an intellectual one?
Let the churches teach doctrine once again. Let them dare to wean their constituency away from milk and begin to introduce meat! Let them not listen to the cries of their highly educated children that this is too deep, and this is too much. Do that and you widen the gap. And each generation will widen the gap still further until you have to water down even the milk of the word to such a point that you have to tell them what sin is, what the word Savior means, and perhaps even what that word God means and has to say to us.
While we seek development in every natural sphere, let us not be found disintegrating in matters that are spiritual. And by all means let us not teach our children that you have to be a Cain before you can become an Abel, that you have to begin with the lie to come to the truth. You say that this is not done? Are you asleep? The world is full of the philosophy that you must tell every one that God loves him or you cannot do missionary work. And that is the lie! If it is the truth, then we can also do missionary work with the devil and his fallen angels. And then we must, for then God loves them too.
Nay, tell man what uneducated, that is, uneducated as far as our scholastic standards are concerned, what uneducated Abel could tell you. He did not tell Cain that God loved him, but told him that he had committed a terrible sin! And then the generation gap becomes all the clearer; for Cain sought to wipe off this earth the generation that continued in the way of his father’s and mother’s faith.
But it also means for us that parents who diligently and faithfully strive to bring up their children in the fear of God’s name to the utmost of their power, and then begin to see a gap between them and their children which becomes ever wider and separates them spiritually from their children, are to bow before the sovereignty of God and not murmur at His ways. Strive to train their children they must. Pray they are certainly called upon to do, and to do so fervently. But they are to do this in the consciousness of that truth of Genesis 3:15 that God will put enmity between seed and seed, and that there are going to be two seeds by divine decree, the one a seed of believers in Christ, the other of unbelievers whom it has pleased God not to cause to be born again, and thus not to receive enmity in their hearts against Satan and his works.
Through the ages believing parents have found what Adam and Eve so painfully found, namely, that we can teach our children but cannot make them believe; we can discipline them but cannot make them love God and His law. When they do believe, and do love God, it is His grace that accomplishes this and not our works. When they do not believe and do not love God it is because sovereignly He has made a gap that in eternity shall not be closed, but in eternity will by the saints and holy angels be confessed to be the sovereign good pleasure of God.