Cain & Abel: Two Kinds of Christians
Updated: Dec 12, 2021
In Genesis 4, we find the story of Cain and Abel. These two brothers, the sons of Adam and Eve, represent two distinct characters. Cain was a man who tilled the ground and harvested crops. While Able was a shepherd, herding his flocks to good pasture. Both men knew God and knew of His requirement for offerings. Cain, however, was a presumptuous individual who chose to improvise, and deviated from the pattern established by God in the case of offerings. While Abel was more honorable and only offered God what was acceptable.
When God rejected Cain's offering but showed preference to what Abel offered, Cain's jealousy was kindled and his anger burned so hot that he murdered his innocent brother:
And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him (Gen. 4:1-8).
This story reminds us of the persistent rebellion that ever thrives within the human heart. Yet it also contains deeper implications that are applicable to all Believers. For instance, Cain and Abel may be viewed as analogous for two kinds of Christians that exist within the Church. Richard Wurmbrand famously said, “there are two kinds of Christians: those who sincerely believe in God and those who, just as sincerely, believe that they believe.” Wurmbrand's assessment is correct. What it boils down to is the fact that not all Christians are equal in their service to God. Most Believers, therefore, may fall into one of two categories:
(1) Those who choose to obey God's requirements completely and without variation.
(2) And those who THINK they are obeying God while choosing to serve Him according to their own style or preferences.
Now before we proceed in our examination of these two classes, we must first define what it is that God requires of the New Testament Saint. That way we can determine whether or not we are falling short of God's expectations. In Luke 10, Jesus sums up for us the single most important commandment:
And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself (Luke 10:27).
Notice that the kind of love required of us is so complete that it reaches into every area of our life and demands the following:
(1) Our passion and emotions ("all thy heart")
(2) Our spiritual cooperation ("all thy soul")
(3) Our physical effort ("all thy strength")
(4) Our intellect or intelligence ("all thy mind")
(5) A genuine love for others (“love...thy neighbor as thyself”)
Here we see that our love for God is measured by the quality of our spiritual service, and not by the sum of our activities. So when our service for God is motivated by duty or obligation and lacks passion, we can't really claim to love God. What we have instead is superficial religion. And if our service for God lacks spiritual cooperation in the form of prayer, fasting, thanksgiving, or the offering up of praises, it too will prove insufficient. The same could be said about our physical efforts. Our love for God should always involve a love for "neighbor" expressed in good works such as charitable giving, physical service, and a genuine concern for the wellbeing of others. And finally, our love for God should motivate us to fully apply our minds to the intellectual study of God's Word and the knowledge of the requirements contained therein. If we take any one of these elements out of the equation, our love for God will always remain inadequate, and so will our spiritual service. Bottom line, a true Christian must give God their very best, or nothing at all:
...because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth (Rev. 3:16).
So these are the features that differentiate between the two kinds of Christians mentioned earlier. Perhaps we can say that Christians like Cain are lukewarm and mediocre in their service for God. Perhaps they seek to negotiate with God's terms, giving God less than required, or something He refuses to accept all together. Or perhaps their spiritual service lacks heart, and stinks of religion. All of these may accurately describe the Cain styled Christian while disqualifying them from the ranks of the truly Faithful.
Conversely, Christians like Abel are exemplary in their service for God. They wholeheartedly obey all of God's requirements and they do so with a happy and willing heart.
The Cain and Abel syndrome is not a new feature in the human landscape. Throughout time there have been noble individuals fully dedicated to God's service, men like Moses, King David, and the prophet Daniel. But there have also been scores of individuals just like Cain, who sought to serve God on his own terms. The Pharisees of Christ's day, who were bound up in external religious service, were no doubt chief among this kind. And like Cain, they sought to murder Jesus because He represented everything they weren't, and this upset them and provoked them to jealousy.
Yet sadly, Cain's blemish marks the character of many Christians today. Some seek to serve God out of religious duty or obligation, hoping like Cain, that God will accept their passionless service. They may read their Bibles and pray dutifully. They may even give their money or material energy to charitable causes, but God isn't first in their mind or thoughts, and He evokes very little passion and enthusiasm. In the final analysis, they are hoping in vain that God will accept their empty good works.
Others, however, who are also characteristic of Cain, are more subtle and harder to discern. They claim to love God and seem to manifest a genuine passion for spiritual things, but like Cain, they are failing to obey God's specific requirements while hoping that their superficial passion and excitement will suffice.
But God will not be bought by our dutiful religious service or our “hyped up” feelings and emotions. His requirements must be satisfied precisely and completely, or else our service for Him is futile:
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:24).
In Christian love,