Although we cannot read the heart, and are in no position to do as they did, John the Baptist (Matthew 3:7) and Jesus (Matthew 12:34) called the unbelieving Scribes and Pharisees a “generation of vipers.” And the idea, of course, is that they were the seed of the serpent, children of the devil, that old Serpent and Satan, as he is called in Revelation 20:2.
Cain, after a period of behaving outwardly as though he were also the seed of the woman manifested himself to be of the Viper’s brood. That there was no love in his heart for God became evident not only in his hatred for his brother, Abel, but even before that in his worship of a god which he had raised up for himself. Abel built an altar to God and humbly sought pardon in the way of the shedding of blood. Cain sought no pardon but favor by his works, giving up some of the fruits of the ground, which he had acquired at such an expense of backbreaking toil.
As one who is of the Viper’s brood he struck the death blow to the seed of the woman. He struck with swift and cruel hatred. John tells us that he slew his brother because his works were evil and his brother’s were righteous. And this does not simply refer to the fact that Abel’s offering was the kind that God had taught man to bring, and was therefore right in His sight, while Cain’s was one of his own invention and the product of his sinful pride, but it also means that Abel’s rebuke of Cain was a righteous deed, and Cain’s response was wicked. The rebuke that Abel gave was one that was given in brotherly love. He had concern for Cain’s spiritual well-being. Cain’s snarl at God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” revealed a complete lack of love for God and his brother. It revealed that, though his hand brought a sacrifice, his heart was not right with God. And it manifests so clearly that relationship between the two tables of the law. One cannot hate God without sooner or later revealing that one has no love for the neighbor as well. And one who loves God will reveal a love for the neighbor. With Abel there was no question as to whether he was his brother’s spiritual keeper or not. In love he came quickly with a word whereby he sought to set Cain on the right course.
Somehow, we know not exactly how, God revealed to both of these brothers that He was pleased with Abel’s offering and sorely displeased with Cain’s. Men’s imagination often runs wild in such Biblical accounts, and they try to make the story live for a child by introducing elements which corrupt rather than instruct. Children are deceived into thinking that the smoke of Cain’s offering went down to the ground while Abel’s arose majestically to the sky. It may be questioned very seriously, however, whether at this stage man even knew how to build a fire and to light a sacrificial altar. That may have come later by the ingenuity of Tubal-Cain, the instructor of every artificer in brass and iron. Far more in harmony with Scripture itself would be the position that God sent fire down from heaven to consume Abel’s offering, while leaving Cain’s wholly untouched. It was, at any rate, something God did that revealed His pleasure and displeasure. But even then, though He did do this at Mt. Carmel with Elijah’s offering, we have no word as to how God showed His reaction to the two offerings.
One truth that is quite evident is that both Cain and Abel knew that God was pleased with Abel’s offering and displeased with Cams. God made it plain to Cain that He had no respect at all for his offering. And Abel could read it on Cain’s countenance, even if there were no other sign given by God.
It is not clear from the account whether God spoke audibly to Cain so that Abel heard it as well, or even, whether verses 6 and 7 are God’s word through Abel. We do read in the next verse that Cain talked with Abel after this word of God came to him. However, literally we read that the Lord spoke to Cain; and in that day there was nothing unusual about that. After Abel was dead, God spoke directly to Cain and asked him where his brother was. Directly God spoke to Cain of his punishment as a fugitive and vagabond. So that God did speak even to this reprobate in direct speech; and verses 6 and 7 no doubt are such direct speech. God does have a message for the Viper’s brood as well as for the seed of the woman.
That message is “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall his desire be, and thou shalt rule over him.” And this message is no “well-meant offer of salvation” to the Viper’s brood. Having by sovereign decree divided the whole human race into two seeds, God does not offer to the seed of the serpent a salvation dependent upon works. Cain is not presented with a condition which, if he will fulfill it, will bring him the blessings of God’s covenant.
No, we must understand this in the light of what God Himself first reveals in Genesis 4:5; “And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.” Wroth with God, mind you! The sin was not Cain’s, according to his thinking as one who is of the Viper’s brood. No, the evil was on God’s part because He had no respect for all this hard work and this “goodness” on Cain’s part to give up the pleasure of his fruit in order to offer it to God. In that context God maintains His own righteousness. Over against Cain’s unspoken but implied charge of God’s unjust dealings with him, so that the sinner becomes wroth with God because He will not enjoy the evil of that sinner, God declares His own righteousness, pointing out to Cain that if he had done well, God in all righteousness surely would have accepted him. It is not God who is not doing well. It is Cain. And when we do well, God does not do evil.
The evil of Cain is pointed out. He is told that his calling is to fight this monster of sin that lies crouching at the door and to rule it, rather than let it rule him. There is a rebuke here. There is instruction in the way of righteousness, but there is no offer of salvation whatsoever.
Cain is told what his calling is. He must rule over sin and not let sin rule him. Sin desired to devour him, but Cain is to desire that it be driven from his door and be put in a cage where it can trouble him no more. In brief what God tells Cain is that he must fight this wickedness within him. And there is not one word or letter even of suggestion of an offer of salvation. That comes only through the cross of Christ, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, the Lamb that Cain by his sacrifice had despised, and Whom he refused to confess. And God tells Cain, “I simply will not bless you outside of Christ. If you walk the wrong way, Cain, do not become angry with ME, but with yourself! Sin lieth at YOUR door, not mine. Do not accuse Me of being unfair when I accept your brother’s offering when he is walking in the right way. Do not expect me, Cain, to walk two ways: with you in your way of evil and unbelief, and with Abel in his way of righteousness. Do not expect Me, Cain, to walk in any other way than the way of righteousness. Put your anger away by recognizing the sin that you are following. Rule over that sin by a desire to serve Me, as I instructed you through your father and mother, and as your brother, Abel, has done.”
“And Cain talked with Abel.”
How full of significance are those words. God has ceased speaking to him after giving him a serious warning. And the anger in Cain was becoming more furious. He would not fight that monster of sin out there at the door. He opened the door to let him in. His desire was for that sin, rather than to rule it and lock it up so that it would not leap upon him to rule him in the way of destruction. Seeing, then, this representative of the living God, Whose Word had only hardened him rather than brought him on his knees in repentance, Cain began to speak with his brother who had been accepted by God.
They had words together. Abel’s were, as we suggested before, those of one deeply concerned with his brother’s spiritual well-being. He urged Cain to listen to what God said and to turn from his evil way. He maintained the justice of God and in doing so accused Cain of unrighteousness. One cannot do otherwise. Either God is righteous, or the sinner. You cannot serve God and mammon. But you cannot say God is right and Cain is also right. You have to choose. You have to say either that God is right in refusing to have respect for the sinful deeds of men, or you have to say that the sinful deeds of men must receive God’s respect; and then you say that God is unrighteous. You have to say that God has a perfect right to tell His creature how He must be worshipped; or you have to say that the creature has that right; and God sins when He does not bless that creature who “does his own thing” in regard to the worship of God.
Many churches—and individuals in the church—who today want to do their thing, want to pray to God as they see fit, rearrange and change their form of worship to satisfy the fleshly cries of men, better listen once to Abel, and not ridicule him, for he spoke God’s Word. They better listen to God who alone can tell man how He must be worshipped and can be worshipped.
Abel lost his life for it.
And this is not only quite characteristic of what men who lift themselves up in pride against the living God do, but also prophetic of what we may expect in the future. For Cain is going to talk to Abel again. Cains have talked with Abels through the ages, and murdered them because they maintained God’s cause and said: Repent!
The Viper’s brood, which John the Baptist and Jesus called such by name, talked with The Seed of the Woman; and in that same anger of Cain they took Him and nailed Him to an accursed tree. Abel’s blood was a picture of far more precious blood that would be shed.
And today Cain is still talking with Abel. The more purely, therefore, that Abel defines the truth and opposes the heretic in his corruptions of the truth, the closer Abel will be to feel the blow of Cain. The false church does not want to be told that sin lieth at the door. She wants to be applauded for her social achievements and numerical growth. She wants to open the door and let sin rule her. Dare to point out to her that she corrupts God’s Word and is endangering her whole constituency, and you will find not only that she is wroth with God, but with you for being a representative of a righteous God Who will not bless in the way of sin. And soon enough she will manage to obtain the mark of the beast to bury you in the sand, continuing to defend herself and claiming to be worshipping God.