The Word for today:
Genesis 4, 5
Abel is my older, braver brother, who went forward first, following God by faith. He went forward alone, rejecting his generation and his family’s values. The rebel was certainly not Cain.
Abel came God’s way--
By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. (Heb 11:4)
Abel brought a blood offering, thus confessing himself a sinner:
Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22)
Cain came his own way, with his own offering. That’s religion.
The way of Cain (Jude 11) is not by faith in God, but by faith in self. God wanted a lamb brought, which points to the sacrifice of Christ. The offering of Cain denied that human nature is evil and in need of a Redeemer. Cain believed in God and religion, but he thought he would negotiate with God directly. It can't be done:
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5)
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
He brought himself instead of Christ, which is the essence of religion--then and now.
Cain and Abel stand as two great systems, two classes of people:
the lost and the saved;
the self-righteous and the broken spirited;
the formal professor and the genuine believer.
The difference between these men wasn’t a character difference. The difference was the offering they brought. No Christian takes the position he is better than anyone else, because there are only two kinds of people--sinners that are saved, and sinners that are lost. What's the difference? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Sin is conformity.
Cain is romanticized as a rebel. Excuse me while I gag. Cain followed the way chosen by Adam, who had chosen the way that Eve had dictated. Adam was wrapped around Eve's little finger and Cain was tied to her apron strings. She, of course, went along with the serpent.
The rebel was Abel, who broke from his family and walked the Way of the LORD alone. He is the Christ-like figure who chose what would become the Way of the cross-- and paid the consequences of his rebel freedom.
The word “conformed” occurs just twice in my KJV Bible--because everybody ends up conforming in one of just two ways. Cain conformed to this world (see Romans 12:2). Abel conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (see Romans 8:29). Abel’s conformity makes him my favorite rebel. Think of it: he faced what then was the entire world and, seeing that their ways were not God’s ways, he went the way which was to be the Way of the cross—and he went that way alone. Conformity to the image of Jesus Christ is rebellion in this world.
Abel is the first person in Scripture who depicts the pattern of righteousness by faith. His rebellion against the prevailing culture--against everyone, it would seem, but God--and his death at the hands of his own kin prefigure the supreme rebel, Jesus Christ, who was condemned to die by His own nation.