The Anger of Spiritual Disappointment
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the LORD.” Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (Genesis 4:1-7)
Adam and Eve’s children were born with a sinful nature, as are all human beings since the fall. This sinfulness is not only inherent in us humans, it is also obvious. We are all bent in the direction of evil. We must learn how to do good. As king David later wrote, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalms 51:5). The New England Primer (the first textbook of the American colonies) put it this way: “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all” (1784 edition).
The awareness of sin—in combination with our innate need to worship—led to the practice of offering sacrifices. The first son (Cain) brought an offering to God from his crops. The second son (Abel) brought an animal sacrifice. God rejected Cain’s offering and accepted Abel’s. Initially, no reason for that is given. Only later do we learn that Abel’s works were righteous, and Cain’s were evil (1 John 3:12). We also learn that Abel offered his sacrifice by faith (Hebrews 11:4). The clear inference is that Cain did not. Therefore, his sacrifice was not acceptable to God (cf. Hebrews 11:6).
The Lord graciously gave Cain the opportunity to do it over again. If Cain were to do well, he would be accepted. If he offered his next sacrifice by faith, God would respect it.
If Cain made a different choice, then sin was waiting for him … as it is for every true believer. Sin was waiting to dominate Cain, to rule over him. But it was Cain’s responsibility to rule over sin instead. This is also true of every true believer. We are able not to sin because of the gospel (Romans 6:6). This does not mean that we will not ever sin (James 3:2; 1 Timothy 1:15), but that sin shall not have dominion over us (Romans 6:14).
1. What Bible passages can you find that support the doctrine that every human being is born with a sin nature? What has God done to fix that?
2. Think about the contrast between offering sacrifice to God by faith vs. by works. What are the main differences?
3. Do you agree with the statement we are able not to sin as believers in Christ? On what basis? How can you apply this truth to a specific area of struggle or temptation in your own life?
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