Category Archives: 2016 – Jan/Feb

Editorial: Denying the Historicity of Genesis Does Not Uphold Biblical Christianity (January/February, 2016) – Jon Mitchell, Editor

 

A few years ago my wife’s employer, a professed believer and follower of Jesus Christ, informed Beth of her belief that the events of the book of Genesis (the creation of the world in six days, Adam and Eve, the global flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, etc.) was fictional.  When Beth asked her why she believed this, she cited the genealogical timelines recorded in Genesis (Gen. 4:17-5:32) which, when taken into account alongside the historical fact that Jesus Christ lived about two thousand years ago and the biblical genealogical records tracing his lineage back to Abraham and Adam (Matt. 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38), would promote the conclusion that this world is only around six thousand years old.  She then explained how this contradicted the scientific “facts” of evolution which promote a rather lengthy age of 4-6 billion years for this planet.  She also pointed out that the historical existence of Adam and Eve contradicts the “proven facts of evolution” which proclaim that mankind evolved over millions of years from animals.  As for the global flood, she dismissed it as an obvious fable and myth.

Sadly, this was not the first time (nor would it be the last) in which I had heard of a supposed Christian denying the authenticity of Genesis in favor of upholding the erroneous, unproven, and inconsistent man-made theories of evolution.  About fourteen years ago, I was involved from time to time in a college ministry.  On one occasion, the college minister had invited a brother in Christ who taught at a university to speak to these college students about how the six days in which Genesis says the world was created in reality were each symbolic of millions of years.   When asked by me and a few others why he believed this, he said that due to the “proven fact” that this world is millions and millions of years old, we should not take these six days in Genesis chapter one literally.  According to him and many others, the six days are obviously representative of much longer periods of time, which would then back up what science has supposedly proven to be true.

However, much scientific, archeological, and historical evidence exists which contradicts these notions.  My purpose in writing this editorial is not to directly present such evidence; therefore, I encourage the reader to examine the material published by Apologetics Press in order to see it for themselves.  I encourage any readers of this editorial who do not believe in Christianity and/or are atheists to examine the material at Apologetics Press with an open and honest heart.  To my Christian readers, I commend you to them in order for you to learn more and thus be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15).  To further help us obey this scriptural command, this editorial will consider the biblical evidence which supports the historicity of Genesis so that we can see how logical consistency would force those professed followers of Christ who deny Genesis’ authenticity or try to change its message in favor of man’s evolutionary theories to also deny Jesus Christ and his teachings.

To begin with, let’s examine exactly why we believe in Jesus Christ.  Why are you a Christian?  What is the basis for your faith in Jesus?  Is it only because your parents were churchgoers and taught you to be the same?  Similarly, is it “because I’ve always believed”?  While both of these reasons are important and should not be discounted, our faith must be built on more.  Why?  Because both the skeptic and the honest seeker of truth will, legitimately, be dissatisfied when they ask you, “Why should I become a Christian?” and the only answer you give them is, “The reason I’m a Christian is because my parents brought me to church and taught me since childhood, and so I’ve always believed.”  “Fine,” they will say, “but WHY have you always believed?  Why did your parents believe?  Why did the Christians who taught them believe?  Why should I believe?”

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child…” ( 1 Cor. 13:11).  I went to church because my parents wanted me to, and I believed in Jesus because they believed in Jesus.  That needed to change as the years passed, because when “I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Cor. 13:11).  My faith needed to be my own, and it needed to have concrete, thought out, scriptural, logical, and consistent reasons (Rom. 10:17; 1 Thess. 5:21).  Therefore, I as an adult believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, my Savior, and my Lord because God raised him from the dead (Rom. 1:3-4; 1 Cor. 15:12-19) after he lived a sinless life (1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 4:15) in order to die on the cross as the saving propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2; Rom. 5:6-11).

There are additional reasons for my faith in Jesus, but for the purpose of this editorial I want us to focus on the fact that our faith in Christ is meaningless if he wasn’t raised from the dead…after having died on that cross to save us from our sins…after having lived a sinless life.  If Jesus hadn’t lived a sinless life, then his death on the cross would not have been the propitiation for our sins.  Therefore, God would not have raised him from the dead to prove to us that he is our Savior.

The key to this which I want us to focus on is the necessity of Jesus having lived a sinless life.  Specifically, I want us to focus on the fact that no deceit was found in his mouth (1 Pet. 2:22).  Think about that for a minute.  If Christ had been dishonest in any way, he could not be the propitiation for our sins and God would not have resurrected him.  Therefore, he could not be our Savior, which means that our faith, the Christian religion, would be meaningless.

Bringing this back to the historicity of Genesis, we will see below how both Jesus and the apostles and prophets his Holy Spirit inspired (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15; Acts 2:1-4ff; 1 Cor. 2:9-13; 14:37; Eph. 3:3-5; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:19-21) talked about the events recorded in Genesis as if they were factual, historical events.  This is significant because if they in fact were mistaken or lying, then Christ could never have been our Savior.  Therefore, Christianity as a whole would be completely false.  Those who deny Genesis while professing to be followers of Christ need to realize this.

For example, Jesus while describing how Judgment Day will occur compared it to the day when the Genesis flood came (Matt. 24:35-39; Luke 17:22-27; cf. Gen. 6-9).  Peter also used the flood to illustrate the importance of immersion (1 Pet. 3:18-21) and the importance of not being a false teacher (2 Pet. 2:1-5, 9-10).  Notice that they did not imply nor refer to the flood as a story or myth in any way.  If the global flood did not actually occur, then by talking about it as if it did occur Jesus and his apostles were being less than truthful, and therefore sinned.  If that was the case, why are we Christians?

Again, Jesus on several occasions referred to the Genesis account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah during the days of Lot as illustrations of lessons or warnings he wanted to give to cities or people he or his apostles were teaching (Matt. 10:14-15; 11:23-24; Luke 10:10-12; 17:22-32; cf. Gen. 19:1-29).  Paul, Peter, Jude, and John also referred to Sodom to illustrate warnings God gave to Christians (Rom. 9:27-29; 2 Pet. 2:1-10; Jude 6-7; Rev. 11:7-8).  Again, notice that they talked about what happened to Lot and Sodom as if it was an actual historical event.  If in fact it wasn’t, then we’ve put our faith in liars and our religion is meaningless.

While teaching about divorce, our Lord quoted Genesis twice (1:27; 2:24), specifically referring to the marriage of Adam and Eve (Matt. 19:4-5; Mark 10:6-8).  By talking about Adam and Eve as if they were historical characters, Jesus himself confirmed their historicity.  The Holy Spirit-inspired Paul would later affirm this by referring to Adam as “the first man” (1 Cor. 15:45), also doing so as if he were referring to a historical figure.  Therefore, to call Adam and Eve mythological would be to imply that Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and Paul were at best mistaken and at worst liars.  And since the message of all three ultimately originated with God the Father (John 12:49-50; 16:12-15; 1 Cor. 2:9-13; 2 Pet. 1:19-21), to say that Adam and Eve were not real or were not the first human beings would be to call God the Father either mistaken or untruthful as well.  While one would expect this from a militant atheist, the Christian who would do so is either ignorant of the Scriptures or rebelliously blasphemous, and in either case has exposed a serious flaw in his faith.

Furthermore, by stating in Matthew’s account, “Have you not read that he (God) who created them (Adam and Eve) from the beginning made them male and female,” and in Mark’s account, “But from the beginning of creation, God made them (Adam and Eve) male and female,” Jesus is placing Adam and Eve at the very beginning of the existence of this world.  The Genesis record does the same by stating that Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day along with the land-dwelling animals (Gen. 1:24-31).  Christians who state that the days in Genesis were in reality symbolic of millions of years each in their attempts to make the biblical account coincide with the flawed and unproven theories of Darwinistic evolution have Adam and Eve coming onto the scene millions of years after “the beginning.”  By doing so, they are disagreeing with their Lord and Savior who said the opposite.  If they choose to persist in doing so, even after “receiving the knowledge of the truth” (Heb. 10:26-31), they make their Christianity meaningless and put their soul in eternal peril.

I am continually amazed that some can apparently believe that God raised a Man from the dead after giving this same Man and his followers the ability to perform many miraculous signs which defy the laws of science…all while finding it hard to believe that God could also create the world, animals, and man in six literal days, and later decide to destroy that entire world with water and several cities with fire and sulfur.  I am even more amazed that these same folks proclaim to put their faith in this Man as their Lord and Savior…all while basically stating or implying that he, his followers, the Spirit who inspired them, and God the Father himself are wrong about their testimony as to the beginnings of our race.

Yet, perhaps we should not be amazed at this, because the same God who told us about the beginning of the world in Genesis also told us that false teachers would come, giving preference to empty human theories and philosophies over doctrine, and that many naive brethren who lack knowledge themselves would follow after them (Hos. 4:6; Matt. 7:15-27; Acts 20:28-32; Rom. 16:17-18; Gal. 1:6-10; Eph. 4:11-14; Col. 2:8; 1 Tim. 1:3-7; 4:1-2; 6:20-21; 2 Tim. 3:1-9; 4:1-5).

You can’t confess Christ while denying his Word, but that’s what you do when you do not take Genesis for what it says. May we all choose to have faith which trusts in our God over men! —Jon

carolinamessenger@gmail.com

 

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What Joseph Has Taught Me – Wade Phillips

Any preacher worth his salt could use Joseph’s life and example for at least a dozen Sundays’ worth of sermons. Some lessons are obvious, such as the good will he showed toward his brethren so many years after they had sold him into slavery (Gen. 45:1-8). One may look at his pristine record of serving his master, whether he was in the house of Potiphar (39:2-6) or Pharaoh (41:29-44), and see how God’s people should serve their earthly masters as they would serve their heavenly Master. Undoubtedly, Joseph’s decision to flee from Potiphar’s house when Potiphar’s wife tried to get him to commit fornication with her (39:7-12) was one of the best recorded to show that one can resist temptation if he so desires.

Other great lessons learned from Joseph’s life include the use of his God-given ability to interpret dreams, his wisdom and planning which saved the known world from famine, and the wonderful example of the providence of Jehovah working through him. These are surely important, but the greatest truths in the last fourteen chapters of Genesis are more about the remarkable man that was Joseph, his actions, and his relationship with his Lord.

Apparently, Joseph understood and followed the concept of “letting go and letting God.” It would be a great injustice to Joseph’s legacy to ignore the fact that in doing so he chose to be a servant: a servant of men, and a servant of his God. Letting go did not mean giving up. It meant getting up and doing all he could do, with the best attitude with which he could do it. He let Jehovah work through him, in His time, and in His way even when it meant certain personal hardship.

Yes, Joseph seemed to say things as a young man that might seem to have been better left unsaid, but he meant no harm. For example: “Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report” (Gen. 37:2, KJV). No one likes a tattletale. Combine that with the implication that Jacob loved Joseph more than his other sons and the dreams Joseph had and told to his brethren of them eventually bowing before him, and it is very easy to understand why he was not the favorite brother.

The events which led to Joseph being in the position of leadership in Egypt that allowed him to be in position to save his family from certain starvation were undoubtedly due to the providence of God, but Joseph had to be a willing participant. Without the saving of his family, what would have happened to the Hebrews? Obviously, their survival was vital to God’s scheme of redemption. What would have happened to mankind? Jesus Christ came from the lineage of Joseph’s brother Judah, and the significance of that is obviously great.

Behind this incredibly important time in human history was a man who had no superhuman strength to resist temptation or to cause others to respect him. Joseph was not given a greater ability to abstain from sin than anyone born before him or after. Of course, he was not completely sinless, but one would be hard pressed to find an example of his transgression in the Bible.

Joseph is one of the very few people mentioned in the scriptures about whom much was written but none of it was overtly negative. In the King James Version, his name is mentioned some 223 times in 202 verses, but was never plainly associated with sin. What was stated about him always implied that he had strong faith and desired to live a righteous life.

The single most important lesson to be learned from the Bible account of Joseph is that we can and must trust that God will see us through, even when times seem dire. Oftentimes we humans forget that fact, even those of us who believe in and devote our lives to serving Him. Whatever trouble we may face is not really about us, or even our families. It is about God’s being in control of the situation and doing things in His time, in His way. We may not like what is happening and we may not understand it, but God is still in control.

The worst possible thing we can do is doubt Him. It can cause a myriad of problems for us, but there is never even a hint that Joseph doubted God or His ability to protect and provide for him. Even when his brothers threw him into the pit, there is no evidence that Joseph resisted, verbally or physically. How many who are reading this article would have the same said about them if they had been thrown into that pit? Admittedly, this writer would probably not.

Later, Joseph found himself in a prison for committing the unknown crime of fleeing without his garment, or his outer robe (Gen. 39:7-19). Of course the truth is that he was accused by Potiphar’s wife of forcing himself upon her, which he definitely did not do. Potiphar had Joseph put into a prison that was meant to hold prisoners of the king, or what may be considered “state prisoners” (39:20). That is where the king’s enemies would be held, and to think that the prisoners held there were treated well would be foolish at best. Still, we have no reason to believe that Joseph ever doubted God.

Although Potiphar did put Joseph in a horrible place, the situation certainly could have been even worse. It would seem that one of two things, if not both, were in his thoughts. Perhaps he had too much respect for Joseph to have him lashed, put to death, or exiled. It was certainly within Potiphar’s rights to inflict either of these upon Joseph. Or perhaps he had a good suspicion of what really happened between his wife and the young man.

Joseph certainly trusted God while he was imprisoned. Again, the Lord was with him as He had been all along. God caused the prison warden to show favor toward Joseph (Gen. 39:21). The scripture does not tell us how he caused it, only that He did.

Being that the warden did favor Joseph, he charged him with seeing to the everyday operation of the prison (Gen. 39:22). This was a tremendous honor for Joseph and a credit to his character. It shows that the warden saw the same wholesome qualities which Potiphar had also found in him.

Two of the prisoners who were placed under Joseph’s watch were of the house of Pharaoh: his chief butler and his chief baker. Each of them, on the same night, dreamed a dream that was different than the other, yet somewhat similar in that each dreamed of three branches. The details after that were not the same. They could not understand their dreams and needed an interpreter.

Enter Joseph and his God-given ability (Gen. 40:8-19). The butler’s dream, as interpreted by Joseph, was one that provided wonderful news for him. In three days he would be restored to his former place in Pharaoh’s house. Joseph asked the butler to remember him when this thing came to pass, so that he too could be brought out of the prison. The baker’s dream, on the other hand, was a vision of his swift death at the behest of Pharaoh just three days later.

Both interpretations were proven correct when three days later the chief butler was restored by Pharaoh and the chief baker was hanged (Gen. 40:20-22). “Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him” (40:23). After Joseph had given him such hope, the man did not remember him for “two full years” (41:1-13). Still, there is not a passage anywhere that overtly implies that Joseph grew bitter because of it.

After those two years, and when the butler finally remembered him, Pharaoh called for Joseph to interpret his dream. Pharaoh’s dream had actually come in two parts. The first part featured seven skinny cows devouring seven fat cows. The second featured seven thin ears of grain devouring seven healthy ears.

Joseph was not content with just correctly interpreting the two-part dream as being seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. He gave Pharaoh further advice about how he should appoint a wise man who would oversee the task of storing grain harvested in the seven years of plenty so that it could be used in the famine years (Gen. 41:25-36). Pharaoh recognized that the qualities of man he needed to complete that task were in the man who told it to him.

Like Potiphar and the prison warden, Pharaoh also perceived that there was something special about Joseph, something other than his miraculous ability to interpret dreams. This is a point which we should pause to consider. This is the third man of authority in Egypt who recognized the wisdom, integrity, and discretion of a Hebrew slave. What makes this even more remarkable is that Joseph was probably at the ripe old age of thirty when he was made governor (Gen. 41:46), the second most powerful man in Egypt. These facts alone provide adequate insight into his humble character.

Pharaoh was very wise to appoint Joseph to the task. Eventually the fat years were replaced by the famine and the people of Egypt began to be in need of food. Pharaoh sent them to Joseph for he had plenty of grain to sell. Not only were his people able to have enough grain to eat, but Pharaoh even profited from it.

Egypt was not alone in suffering through the famine. Every other nation in the known world at that time was also experiencing it. None of them had Joseph. So they were all in need, including Jacob and his remaining sons and their families. Hearing that there was grain to be bought in Egypt, Jacob sent ten of his sons down to buy some for them. Only the youngest son, Benjamin, remained at home.

When the sons of Jacob arrived in Egypt, they bowed before the governor who alone had the authority to sell them grain. He alone had the choice of whether or not he would sell them life sustaining food. Here one of the most amazing accounts of the providence of God is recorded. The same brother whom they had desired to kill because he told them they would one day bow down to him, whom they threw into an empty pit only to later sell him into slavery, was the one before whom they now bowed!

Their lives were now completely in his hands. Joseph recognized them, but they did know him. Following a series of quests for the brothers in which Joseph seemed to orchestrate in mischief, his brethren were invited to his house. The reader is encouraged to study about the entire account found in Genesis 42-44, but suffice it to say that he played them for all they were worth.

Finally, when he could stand it no longer, Joseph introduced himself to his brothers, and then to his father. Because Joseph allowed himself to be a servant, he was elevated to near royalty and he was reunited with his family. The Hebrew people survived and eventually thrived in Egypt because Pharaoh allowed them to settle in the most fertile part of the land. It was all part of God’s plan, and Joseph allowed God to use him in executing it.

Even as a very young man, Joseph made a tremendous difference by letting God work through him. Studying about Joseph teaches us that we each can make a difference in the world simply by letting God work through us. Like Joseph, we can make a difference by having humble hearts and servile minds. God will take care of the rest.

b.wade.phillips@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Jacob Has Taught Me – Steve Miller

Jacob was the twin-brother of Esau and the son of Isaac and Rebekah. He was the favorite of his mother. The name Jacob means “supplanter.” His encounter with God in Genesis 32:24–30 records the change of his name from “Jacob” (meaning “he grasps the heel”, figuratively, “he deceives”) to “Israel” (meaning “he struggles with God”). Jacob was the recipient of the Abrahamic blessings.

The following are some lessons I have learned from Jacob:

God knows us (Gen. 28:12-17).       Jacob was alienated from his family. He discovered himself in the wilderness while on his way to Laban’s house. God disclosed Himself to Jacob while he was away from everyone who knows him. Jacob dreamed about a ladder that was set upon the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. Angels were ascending and descending on it and God was standing at the top of it. The Almighty used the occasion to introduce Himself as the Lord God of Abraham and Isaac. He renewed the land promise and explained how Jacob’s seed would be as the dust of the earth.

God knows us. He created us and knows us best (Is. 55:8-9). We think we know the best course, and have all the answers and can handle everything that comes our way. How wrong can we be? “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps” (Jer 10:23). He knows what you are thinking. He knows what your life is all about. He knows our plans and desires. He is God and we are His creation.

God is fully capable of fulfilling His plans. The Scriptures says, “Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted.  And Esau said to Jacob, ‘Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!’ (Therefore his name was called Edom.)  Jacob said, ‘Sell me your birthright now.’ Esau said, ‘I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?’  Jacob said, ‘Swear to me now.’ So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob.  Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright” (Gen 25:29-34).

In the stories of Abraham and Jacob, God promised to do something great. It is remarkable that each of them resolved to try to assist God so that their dream could be achieved. We should never circumvent God’s principles in order to achieve God’s will. Jacob attempted to help God out by stealing his brother’s birthright and blessing. God does not need our assistance in fulfilling His purpose in our life. He needs our obedience. The supplanter, Jacob, demonstrated a selfish, greedy spirit.   Being deceitful has no place in the Christian character. “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit” (1 Pet 3:10). Truthfulness and honesty in all circumstances is the high road to take as we go through life.

God has a purpose and plan for your life. While Jacob was serving Laban for twenty years, God’s plan had not lessened. God had a plan for Jacob’s life, and it would be fulfilled. God pledged to bless Jacob, and He did.

Just as God had a plan for Jacob’s life, God has a plan for yours (Jer 29:11). Our purpose in life is to serve and worship God. May we remember, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Prov 19:21).

God wants you to seek Him. The Bible records the following: “And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.  When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.  Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day has broken.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’  And he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’  Then he said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.’  Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him.  So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered’” (Gen 32:24-30).

As Jacob wrestled with God, God told Jacob it was time for Him to go, but Jacob would not “permit” God to go until he obtained His blessing. We finally see a reliance on God’s divine power and guidance. God desires us to reach the point in our lives where our relationship with Him is more important than anything else in the world.   We are to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt 6:33). God wants us to “seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa 55:6-7).

God wants us to pray to Him in all situations. We read in Scripture: “And Jacob said, ‘O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, “Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,” I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.  Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. But you said, “I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude”’” (Gen 32:9-12).

Jacob was a person of prayer. He decided to return to his home, country and family. He trusted God to return him safely. Jacob worked as a peacemaker with Esau when he met him and bowed to the ground seven times. This helped Esau manifest a friendly spirit toward Jacob. We are reminded that prayer is essential in our relationship with God (Phil 4:6). Christians are to approach God the Father “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Eph. 6:18).

God will reward obedience. The Bible gives us the record of the end of Jacob’s life: “And Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning’” (Gen 47:9). Scripture then gives us a glimpse of the final moments of the life of this great patriarch: “When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people” (Gen 49:33).

The New Testament says, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb 9:27). We must never lose sight of the fact of death and judgment. Jacob was disobedient in many things, but because of areas of obedience, God by His grace blessed him. He is mentioned in Hebrews 11:9, 20 and 21 as one of the great heroes of the faith. God blesses the faithful.

You reap what you sow.   Paul warned, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal 6:7). Jacob had a tough life of twenty years serving Laban. He was fearful of Esau, and his children dishonored him because of his disobedience. Jacob reaped many negative things in his life because he planted deceit and disharmony.     Our actions will bring results, either positive or negative. It is up to each of us to determine that we will sow righteous seeds and “as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10).

stevemiller67@gmail.com

 

 

What Abraham Has Taught Me – Michael Grooms

Editor’s Note:  Brother Grooms recently made a sermon in which he expounded upon the points made in this article.  He preached it at the Boiling Springs Church of Christ in Boiling Springs, SC, on February 21, 2016.  We encourage you to listen to his lesson here.

By faith, Abraham obeyed…” (Heb. 11:8a). Thus begins the entry into the “Hall of Faith” found in Hebrews 11 concerning this great patriarch. To be eulogized in such manner would be a great honor; for such a eulogy would indicate a life of faithfulness to God. If one is to hope to be remembered in such a fashion as was Abraham, it would behoove one to heed the lessons learned from Abraham’s life. The scope of these lessons would far surpass the limited space available in this article, so it will suffice to reflect upon four events which tested the faith of Abraham and apply the lessons taught in his example.

Abraham stood the test of separation. He was called by God to leave home and go to an unknown place. Hebrews 11:8 tells us that “he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Though his destination was uncertain, his trust in the One who would guide him was not. He left that which was dear to him. He traded comfort for hardship, to an end that was unknown to him. He left home, and many of the relationships that went with it (Gen. 12:1). The child of God must also face the test of separation. For some, to obey God means to be cut off from family. For others, it may mean the loss of a job. For many, it will mean separation from friends. For all, it means separation from the sinfulness of the word. Moses chose to suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than the passing pleasures of sin (Heb. 11:25). God has commanded His people, “Come out from among them, and be separate” (2 Cor. 6:17). Separation is often difficult. It requires self-denial. It may require of one a loss of things or relationships that are cherished. Abraham left home with an end in mind. He did not know where that end was, but He knew that God had promised, and God is faithful. God has promised that He will never leave nor forsake the faithful. He has promised to take us home.

Abraham withstood the temptation of power. In the fourteenth chapter of Genesis, the account is given of a great battle which ensued at the Valley of Siddim. Four kings with their armies defeated five kings, which included the armies of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot, who dwelled in the area of Sodom and Gomorrah, was taken captive. When Abraham learned of Lot’s capture, he gathered his 318 trained servants and pursued the five kings. He defeated the kings, delivered Lot and the other captives, and recovered the goods that had been stolen from Sodom and Gomorrah. Upon his return, he was met by Melchizedek, who was king of Salem and a priest of God. In his blessing, Melchizedek pronounced two great truths: God is the possessor of Heaven and Earth, and it was God who had delivered Abraham’s enemies into his hand (Gen. 14:18-20). Was it mere coincidence that Abraham would be reminded of these two truths just before he would be offered wealth and power from the King of a wicked people? The king of Sodom asked of Abraham that he only give him back the people who had been taken captive, and offered Abraham all the spoils that had been taken. Gen. 14:11 states that this was all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions. This must have been an immense amount of wealth! Abraham refused, repeating in his reply that which Melchizedek had stated, that God is the possessor of Heaven and earth. Abraham had vowed to God that he would not take anything from the king of Sodom. He refused on the basis that the King of Sodom would have no claim to Abraham’s power or wealth. Abraham resisted receiving wealth and power from an evil king, because he belonged to God. From this event, the child of God is reminded that we belong to God. The world may allure and offer wealth and power, but God alone can give eternal life. When tempted by the allurement of the world, the child of God must remember who he or she is. We belong to God. Paul warns of the dangers of such allurement in 1 Timothy 6:6-12. He warns that such greed brings destruction, and eternal damnation (perdition). The child of God is warned to flee these things and lay hold on eternal life. There will be many times that the world will offer that which is appealing. At such times, look to Abraham’s example and choose rather to serve God and trust in His power.

Abraham proved faithful in the test of delay. In an age of instant gratification, the Christian would do well to learn a lesson from Abraham’s faith in delayed fulfillment. Abraham’s wife, Sarah, could not bear children. This meant that Abraham had no heir. This within itself was considered a calamity in the ancient world. To not have an heir meant that the generational inheritance pattern was broken, and there was no son to care for the couple in their older years. This is why Abraham was so intent on having an heir that he considered making his servant Eliezer his heir (Gen. 15:2). After God told him that Eliezer would not be his heir, but one who would come from his own body, Abraham took Sarah’s maid, Hagar, as his wife and bore Ishmael through her (Gen. 16:3). He was eighty-six years old at this time. For thirteen years Abraham believed that Ishmael would be his heir, but God appeared to him when he was ninety-nine years old and once more told him that he would have an heir, but it would be a child born to him through Sarah. Sarah later laughed at the idea that she could bear a child in her old age (Gen. 18:12). These events show just how real the struggle was for Abraham and Sarah. Abraham believed God, but he could not understand how God would fulfill His promise. This was a major challenge to his faith. How many people would have given up on God because He does not work according to human time limits? Many people do. Dear reader, trust God. His answer to your prayers may not come as soon as you would like. The answer may not be that which your heart desires. His answer is always the best, and it comes at the very best time…His. Abraham had to wait for twenty-five years from the time God first promised he would have descendants until the time that God gave him Isaac, his true heir through Sarah. He was one hundred years old when Isaac was born. Through it all, he trusted God. Yes, he struggled. Yes, he tried to help God along. Yes, his humanity showed in his mistakes. Through it all, he never lost faith.

All of the previous tests of Abraham’s faith pale in comparison with the test found in Genesis 22. The son of his old age, Isaac, was the hope that Abraham had longed for all of his life. He was the fulfillment of God’s promise that he would have an heir. Through Isaac, God had promised to make of Abraham a great nation. Now, after all of this, God told Abraham to do something that would make the strongest man break down into a mass of quivering flesh. He commands Abraham to take Isaac to the land of Moriah and offer him as a burnt offering. As they ascended the mountain to make the sacrifice, Isaac bore upon his back the wood which, unbeknownst to him, is marked for his death. Abraham carried the fire for the sacrifice, and the knife with which he intended to kill his son. How every step must have been a burden for this father! How that blade must have burned into his flesh! How his heart must have groaned in despair as he watched his son by his side! He loved his son, but he loved God more. When Isaac asked of him, “Where is a lamb for a burnt offering?” he replied in faith, “God will provide.” Hebrews 11:19 reveals that Abraham believed that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead. He was willing to offer his son, but his faith in God’s promise was so strong that he counted on God to raise him from the dead. In the end, God delivered Abraham from offering his son. It was not God’s intention for Abraham to kill his son. It was His intention to test his faith and prove that he was worthy. After all, this was the man who would father a nation, through which God would one day send His own Son to be a sacrifice for the sins of the world (John 3:16). Sometimes God’s will conflicts with ours. Sometimes it requires sacrifice of us. When all is said and done, will you be faithful?

gospelpreacher@charter.net

 

What Noah Has Taught Me – Ken Thomas

The great flood has been of great interest in the world. In ancient civilizations the “flood story” became the subject of myth and legend. There are some that deny the historicity of the flood or diminish it to localized events, while others believe that discoveries in archaeology and geology have verified flood layers around the world and evidence of a cataclysmic event that drastically changed the habitation of mankind. The Bible clearly describes the flood as an act of destruction by the Creator of heaven and earth, and the continued existence of humanity as the result of God’s favor to the family of Noah.

Noah and the ark have been favored subjects of Bible classes for little children. I recently met a craftsman who has made a business of his woodworking and design skills, making large “Noah’s Ark” play sets. He told me that several religious people who live near him do not allow their children to “play” on Sundays unless their toys are “Sunday toys” based on Bible stories. The Internet is filled with lists of “things I learned from Noah,” but the purpose of this article is not to offer whimsical and humorous statements such as “Noah should have swatted those flies.” It is to look at key thoughts from the example of Noah that might help us live lives that will find favor with God and also be lights to the world.

Only two men in scripture are noted as having walked with God. Enoch, father of Methuselah, walked with God for 300 years following the birth of his son, fathering other children also. He was taken by God, without death, from the earth (Gen. 5:22-24; Heb. 11:5). Methuselah’s son Lamech was the father of Noah, who also “walked with God” (Gen. 6:9).

Noah did more than to build an ark. Before he was given that responsibility and privilege, he was living a life that pleased God. He was a striking contrast to the rest of the people in the world. Noah found grace (favor) in the eyes of the Lord in the same world that had surrounded him with violence and unimaginable wickedness (Gen. 6:8).

The grief of God and the regret of His creating the world had made Him determine to destroy the world. The God who had declared His creation as “good” and the creation of man “very good” had seen good people corrupted by their evil companions. Word and deed, even every thought of man, was only evil . . . all the time. Yet, “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.” (Gen. 6:9) “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Heb. 11:7).

The hope of the salvation of our own souls is based on the grace (favor) of God. Without faith it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6). Believing that God exists and rewards the diligent seeker is illustrated for us by the example of Noah. Noah had never seen a flood brought on by constant rain and waters from beneath the earth’s surface; I am not sure he had even seen rain, since such is not mentioned in scripture from the passage that tells us that God watered the ground with a mist from the earth (Gen. 2:5-6).

Still, Noah believed God! He moved with fear, which would also be defined as proper caution and reverence for God. He prepared the ark as God had instructed. His faith in God moved him to righteous obedience. His righteousness is even more obvious when contrasted with the ungodly world around him. He became the heir of righteousness (Heb. 11:7), not only a practitioner and preacher of righteousness (2 Pet. 2:5). Eight souls were saved by water, which perhaps refers to being saved from increasing violence of the wicked against the righteous. Yet this happened only after long years of preparation and toil to build such a massive lifeboat and stock it with food to save the lives of the humans and the living creatures which would enter.

The details of the flood, the ark dimensions and structural details, and the loading and the landing are so well known as to be unnecessary for this article. However, the character of Noah is worthy of examination in more detail than is usual. Noah is listed with Job and Daniel as righteous men who could not deliver even a son or daughter by their own righteousness, and certainly not the nation of Israel even if they had been in it (Ezek. 14:14-20). What a triad of righteous men!

The ground had been cursed by God to require toil and sweat of man to bring forth its fruit. This must have been a real barrier to productivity. Yet there was hope for better days ahead, for the name Noah suggests “comfort.” Lamech “called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed” (Gen. 5:29). Evil had multiplied, and God had made his decision to destroy all flesh. “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. . . Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:8-9).

Detailed instructions were given for construction of the ark, and for gathering food for man and beast. “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he. And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation” (Gen. 6:22-7:1).

Noah was instructed to take in the animals, numbering them based on whether they were clean or unclean. “And Noah did according unto all that the Lord commanded him”…“There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah”…“And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the Lord shut him in” (Gen 7:5, 9, 16 ).

Even the departure from the ark was an act of obedience to the instruction of God (Gen. 8:15-19). Noah, the man who had been chosen to preserve the existence of mankind because of his righteousness, then made a burnt sacrifice from every clean beast and fowl upon an altar. In response to the sacrifice, God resolved never to curse the ground again nor to smite all living things. He also pronounced a continuation of seasons and time-markers for the duration of the earth (vs. 20-22). God now gave man permission to eat meat as well as the “green herb,” but not blood (Gen. 9:2-4).   He also commanded a penalty of blood for the shedding of mankind’s blood (vs. 5-6). The reproductive process of man was to begin again (vs. 1, 7), and man was given a covenant of promise, symbolized by the bow in the cloud, that universal destruction of the world by water would not occur again (vs. 8-17).

Hundreds of years later, a descendant of Noah according to the flesh would be born into the world (Luke 3:36). This One, like Noah, would be the source of salvation for the human race. However, He would not come to save us from a flood of water, but from the sin that floods the world. His sacrifice has been made, and He will return. His return will be like the flood of Noah in that men, though warned, will be continuing life as usual, and be taken away as if they had no warning (Lk.17:26-27; Mt. 24:37-39). Though some will scoff and declare He is not going to return, Peter warned that while God’s longsuffering is delaying the fiery dissolution of this world at the return of Christ, His coming is as sure as the flood (2 Pet. 3:3-14). In Noah’s day, it was the longsuffering of God which delayed the flood while the ark was being prepared . Others in addition to the eight could have been saved, but they did not heed the preaching of Noah (1 Pet 3:20-21; 2 Pet. 2:5).

I would appeal to the reader to make a personal list of things you have learned from Noah, as well as reading what others have said and written. Here are some items that stand out to me:

  • You never get too old to provide a haven for your children if they have no other place to go. (Noah was 600 when the flood came.)
  • If God tells us to do something, it is really smart to do it. “Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did” (Gen. 6:22).
  • Walking with God involves more than just an occasional stroll.
  • When you come through a crisis safely, don’t let your guard down. Stay sober (Gen. 9:20-27).
  • When the rains come down and the floods come up, look forward to the rainbow when the storm is over.
  • It takes time to prepare for some crises of life, but thank God for the time if you have warning.
  • God warned Noah of things he had never before seen, but he prepared anyway. Good move.
  • Keep doing the will of God, even when the neighbors scoff and your warnings are ignored.
  • Just because everyone is thinking evil continually doesn’t give you an excuse to do likewise.
  • No matter how long you live, it is appointed for man to die. “And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he died” (Gen. 9:27).
  • Isaiah believed in the Noah story. “For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee” (Is. 54:9).
  • Righteousness cannot be borrowed from others for ourselves. “Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God…Though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness” (Ezek. 14:14, 20).
  • The coming of the Son of Man is sure, just like the flood. “And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:26-27; cf. Matt. 24:37-39).
  • If you live right it will please God, but it will make others look bad. That’s okay. “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Heb. 11:7).
  • As the water cleansed the world and separated Noah’s family from it, my sins are cleansed by Christ’s blood when I am baptized. Thank God for His longsuffering to lost mankind! “…the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God” (1 Pet. 3:20-22). Give praise “unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev. 1:5).
  • The destruction of the earth will be by fire rather than water next time (2 Pet. 3:5-7). Since this will certainly happen, let us heed the inspired warning of Peter: “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen” (2 Pet. 3:17-18).

ken@kennethlorin.com


 

 

 

 

 

What Eve Has Taught Me – Debbie Kea

Eve. Mother of all living. First woman. First wife. First sinner. I’ve heard women speak negatively about Eve for most of my Christian life. But as I have studied her, I have developed a great sympathy. Let me show you why.

Sin.  We are all well aware that Eve was deceived by Satan (Gen. 3:4-7). She learned that just because something looks good doesn’t mean it is good. She learned that the Devil lies. She learned to listen to God.   We are critical of her; yet who of us has not sinned? The apostle Paul declares that all have sinned (Rom. 3:23). As I review my own sins, I feel pity for the first woman. There is no record of any other sins of Eve, but this one teaches us serious lessons.

Obedience.  God’s first law was a law of obedience to Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:17). They were clearly instructed by God not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Obedience to God’s laws remains for all of us today if we are to be pleasing to our Maker. We must not only obey God’s commands but we are also to teach obedience to our children and our grandchildren. A lack of respect for authority has become one of the worst problems of our society. Lawlessness reigns in our world. Most importantly, this disobedience separates us from God.

Blame.  We have played the blame game since the beginning and we continue it still! When accused, it’s usually the first thing we humans do—point to someone else. It’s a rare individual that takes personal responsibility for his actions. Adam started this habit by blaming “the woman thou gavest to be with me” and Eve continued by pointing at “the serpent” who beguiled her (Gen.3:12-13). They both knew the truth; that’s why they knew they were naked—their guilt. Our task now as humans is to build our character so that we will be strong enough to admit our sins, repent of them and grow! We must be responsible for our own actions—to God and others. We must be willing to say, “Yes, it was me and I’m sorry.”

Power and Influence.  Eve teaches me that women have great power and influence. Adam was created first and had the responsibility to be the spiritual leader of his home; therefore, Adam should have stopped Eve from disobeying God but he didn’t.   We, as women, must recognize our role in the home as God’s plan. Paul tells us man was not created for the woman but the woman for the man (I Cor. 11:9). Submission and subjection are not inferiority. They are the role that God has given us as women. However, our influence and power can only be for good when we allow our husbands to lead our homes. We must use our influence for good there as well as everywhere we go.

Suffering.  Women have endured suffering since Eve sinned. She was banished from the garden. She suffered in childbirth. Most of us who are mothers understand this well. She suffered over her children. One of her sons was a murderer, and one of her sons was killed. She suffered great loss with both of them. We learn that children who grow up in the same household may very well take different paths in life.   Eve suffered watching her husband work by the sweat of his brow for over 900 years! Sin brings suffering.   Eve learned this.

Desire.  God told Eve that she would have desire only for her husband. This seems an odd thing to say at a time when Adam was the only man there! But as I think about this, I am reminded of many women whose desire is not for their husband but for other things, such as money, career, popularity or a variety of other cares of the world. Unfortunately, today we Christian women are considered peculiar if we care about what our husband wants instead of what we want. This is one of the contributing factors to the destruction of the home in our world now. The world sees nothing wrong with a woman satisfying a man in her career or job; yet Christian women are ridiculed for wanting to satisfy or help their husbands to be happy in their marriage!

Wisdom.  Satan tried to convince Eve that she could be as wise as God. We must not let Satan fool us in this. Instead of trying to be as wise as God, we need to recognize His power and greatness and our dependence upon Him! “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). If we would truly be wise and happy, we would come to the One Who gives wisdom, knowledge and understanding (Prov. 2:6; 3:13).

Salvation.  Like me, Eve needed salvation. God, through His lovingkindness, provided from the beginning a way for Eve to be saved, to be brought back into a right relationship with Him. Jesus would come and bruise the head of the serpent, Satan (Gen. 3:15). And my obedience through faith would find access to the Lord’s saving blood (Rom. 5:1-2; 6:1-4). God did not leave Eve without hope. Jesus’ blood reaches back to her (Heb. 9:15). Neither does He leave us hopeless, for Christ is the Savior of the world if we would hear His voice (John 10:27; 3:17; Heb. 2:9).

Eve, mother of all living, continues to teach us lessons today. Though I am empathetic, it is still clear that Eve sinned and was punished for it. She remains, not a myth, but a real woman, made to be a helpmeet for man, a position that no other creature could fill. God help us to learn by studying Eve to be obedient children so that we can fulfill our role as women in His kingdom.

keadebbie1955@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Abel Has Taught Me – Tim Bench

It would be difficult, if not impossible, to conceive of a family more famous in both human and Biblical history than that of Adam and Eve, and likewise their sons Cain and Abel. Both Christians and non-Christians alike are typically familiar with the story of the two brothers, usually assumed to be twins (although there is no specific biblical wording to support this claim). Cain and Abel’s rivalry even served as a foundational basis for John Steinbeck’s 1952 magnum opus, East of Eden. In short, the Bible’s first brothers famously display all-too-common failings of mankind, both then and now: treachery, jealousy, anger, and ultimately violence from Cain, while also displaying obedience and service to God on Abel’s part.

The saga of this family and their tragedies provides us who are some 3,400+ years removed from the writing of Genesis multiple beneficial observations and lessons to be gleaned even today. The focus of this article will be to specifically look at Abel, history’s first recorded murder victim and martyr, and to provide and discuss two specific lessons we can derive from his life, obedience to God, and untimely death at the hands of his own brother. How can we apply these observations as 21st century New Testament Christians?

According to Gene Taylor’s Character Studies in Genesis, the definition of Abel’s name is a possible variant of the name Jabal, which means “shepherd” or “herdsman.” Abel itself is defined as “breath, vapor, transitoriness.” It is imperative to note that his saga is not merely some obscure Old Testament story, relegated to being a mere biblical footnote of remote antiquity. The Old Testament is certainly still relevant for our learning and profit (Rom. 15:4). The New Testament tells us in no uncertain terms that by faith, Abel is still “speaking,” albeit not in a literal sense (Heb. 11:4). Jesus Himself referred to Abel as a “righteous” man (Matt. 23:35), and both Cain and Abel are repeatedly referred to and mentioned throughout the New Testament (Heb. 12:24; Luke 11:51; 1 John 3:12; Jude 1:11). These brothers provide us a vivid example of polar opposites in terms of morality: one being moral and acquiescent to God, and the other obstinate and immoral. Easton’s Bible Dictionary described Cain as “a sullen, self-willed, haughty, vindictive man; wanting the religious element in his character, and defiant even in his attitude towards God….Doomed to be a wanderer and a fugitive in the earth…” The relevance of these brothers is every bit as applicable today as it was when the New Testament was written and assembled. It would behoove each and every one of us today to both study this drama, and take away from it pertinent applications for our modern lives. Let us note two specific examples.

First, notice that Abel’s life and death clearly show that God is aware of all that takes place on the earth. Those who commit sin with the false belief that their misdeeds will go unnoticed or unseen are in egregious, soul-threatening error.

Out of rage and jealousy, Cain killed Abel (Gen. 4:8). God then asked Cain, “Where is Abel thy brother?” and then told him, “. . . the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground” (4:9-10). The sheer audacity of Cain’s reply to God (“Am I my brother’s keeper?”) almost defies belief, but perhaps further highlights Cain’s mistaken, amazingly confident notion of being able to effectively hide his sin from God. God sees and knows everything. He is aware of the thoughts, actions, deeds, and sins of every person who has, or ever will live. There is no detail which escapes God’s eyes (Jer. 16:17).

Similar to Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), Cain foolishly lived under the illusion that his sins could be hidden, just as many Christians believe today. Nothing can be hidden from God. God knows the hairs on your head (Luke 12:7) and is aware of every detail of the earth, even when a bird falls from the sky (Matt. 10:29). Yet, just as vile and defiant sin will not go unseen and unpunished by God, Abel shows us that mankind’s obedient, dutiful, and righteous action will likewise not go unnoticed or unrewarded by God (Heb. 6:10).

Secondly, Abel’s worship shows that there is indeed such a thing as acceptable worship to God. Likewise, Cain’s offering shows that there exists worship which does NOT serve to please God. This runs contrary to the rampant viewpoint across much of modern society that any and all worship to God is equivalent and acceptable.

God did not accept the offering of Cain (Gen. 4:5). Contrast this with the previous verse, which tells us that God “had respect unto Abel and to his offering.” Hebrews 11:4 would likewise state, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” James Burton Coffman noted in his commentary on Genesis: “Hebrews 11:4 categorically states the reason for the acceptability of Abel’s sacrifice as being solely due to his having offered it ‘by faith,’ a truth which emphatically declares that he offered in harmony with what God had commanded him to offer.”

The brothers had offered differing sacrifices to God. Cain, as a “tiller of the ground” (Gen. 4:2) “brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground.” Abel, “a keeper of sheep…brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions,” an animal sacrifice. Cain may well have possessed every bit as ardent a desire to worship God as his brother did. However, this does not negate Cain’s error in his attempt at substitution, replacing what God had specifically commanded with what God did not decree. Cain, to his eternal discredit, brought that which God had not authorized, which God had apparently not told him to bring, and God did not accept it. Further evidence of Cain’s moral repugnance is his reaction to correction from God (Gen. 4:6-7); he certainly does not demonstrate a contrite, repentant heart, as we clearly see when he kills his own brother, flees, and then possesses the shocking gall to complain as God’s wrath descends upon him (vs. 11-13). His focus was still on himself and not sorrow over his misdeeds. Abel’s offering was deemed acceptable by God, and Cain’s was not, which clearly serves to illustrate for all time that not all “sacrifices” are equal, or even acceptable, in the eyes of Almighty God.

When we offer to God some facet or element that is not authorized, God does not accept that specific offering. Simply stated, we possess two potential paths to follow in regard to worshiping God. We can worship as God has commanded and ordained, or we can worship in a manner which we deem to be “just as good”. Cain should serve as a warning for all ages of the folly of the second choice, while Abel can serve to illustrate for all time the mammoth importance of obeying God.

How many of us hear the cries and supposed justifications from postmodernists and progressives today that HOW we worship is negligible in importance, or even irrelevant? In the New Testament, the Lord has provided for us a pattern and specific guidelines for worship. When we as His children worship Him appropriately in spirit and in truth, then such worship is pleasing in His sight (John 4:23-24). Worshiping God as we see fit, based on how we “feel”, summarily disregarding God’s expectations, desires, and commands, is not acceptable or pleasing unto God. Logically, none of us as “Christians” would desire to have our “sacrifice”, or obedience to God, deemed “lacking” or “rejected”, as was Cain’s.

In his article “Abel vs. Cain,” Frank Walton said, “Cain was the first religious innovator, which illustrates the error of ‘will-worship’ (Col. 2:23) or ‘self-chosen religion.’ Those who ‘reject authority’ (Jude 8), as in worship and add unauthorized items, have dangerously entered ‘the way of Cain’ (v. 11). This is the way of rebellion against God’s appointed way of acceptable worship and fellowship. In prompting Abel’s murder, Cain’s unauthorized worship is specifically enumerated as ‘his works were evil’ (1 John 3:12). A rebellious person is a selfish person, who is more concerned with presumptuously doing what he wants in religion than submitting to what God requires.”

Abel’s example of devotion and obedience to God are still perfectly applicable to us today….as is Cain’s sheer disregard for obedience to the Lord. Is your faith grounded in resolute, unwavering, and indefatigable pursuit of God and His will? Or is your faith and behavior more aligned with that of Cain’s, focused on your own “convenience” and intractableness, ultimately resulting in separation from God? Your soul and your eternal destiny hangs in the balance of a thorough and honest answer to that question.

tulsa4@aol.com