Not By Works

“In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.” (Genesis 4:3–8, ESV)

I read this story the other day. It is the account of the first murder. Two brothers brought offerings to God. Cain, who seems to be wanting to serve God, ends up in such a sinful place that he murders his brother. I have thought about this story for days.

To the casual onlooker, it would seem that Cain was serving God. He brought a sacrifice. He was doing good works for the Lord. But there was something that made his work unacceptable to God.

Cain’s brother Abel brought an offering that was acceptable. He brought a lamb. This was an acceptable sacrifice because it was a picture of the Lamb of God who was to come. “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, ESV)

Cain’s sacrifice was unacceptable because it represented the works that mankind tries to offer God rather than resting in the finished work of the Lamb of God. The Lord warned Cain that his prideful and self-centered sacrifice would lead him into sin, not away from it. The warning to trust in The Lord and do things his way was not heeded.

Cain’s sin was not atoned for and he became a slave to sin. His sin controlled him. Even when God confronted him, he did not repent nor was he remorseful. He was still concerned about himself and how his life would be affected by his actions. He was far from salvation even though he brought a sacrifice.

There are many today who are like Cain. In their pride, they offer gifts to God that are unacceptable, and they are far from salvation. Many people today caught up in works based religion. They believe that being a basically good person will atone for their sin. This is a lie, and sin is crouching at the door waiting to devour them. The only sacrifice that makes us acceptable before God is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The sacrifices of our own hands will never be acceptable. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, ESV)

If you have been trusting in your works for your salvation, now is a good time to bring an acceptable sacrifice to the Father. Humble yourself and let the Lamb of God, Jesus, and his supreme sacrifice, his death on the cross atone for your sins. Now is a good time. “For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2, ESV)

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