|Vol. 16 No. 12 December 2014||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Clearly, Cain worshipped God, but God rejected his worship.
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 4:3-7 NKJV)
Apparently, on that occasion and under the period of Patriarchy, God required worshippers to worship Him with animal sacrifices and not with fruits and vegetables. Probably neither Cain nor Abel were aware of the significance of the shed blood of animal sacrifices as types or figures of the shed blood of Christ that would occur about 4,000 years after they lived. It is unlikely that either brother understood why fruits and vegetables were unacceptable for worship, but animal sacrifices were acceptable for worshipping God. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).
Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:12-14)
However, Cain and Abel did not have to know why God required them to worship Him with animal sacrifices. All they needed to know was that God required them to obey Him. Still today, nearly 6,000 years later, obedience of divine instructions leads to salvation. “…He [Jesus Christ] became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9).
In addition, one learns from the incident with Cain, as well as acknowledgement that God accepted Abel’s worship, that it is not enough to simply worship God. One must also worship God correctly. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). The word “truth” in this verse refers to divine instruction; we, today, would say, “the Bible” or “the New Testament.” Despite worshipping God, each of us today must ask our self, “Does God reject my worship?”
Cain may have sacrificed fruits and vegetables, but evidently, he did not follow God’s instructions for worshipping Him. One can know certainly that Cain disregarded divine instructions as to how God required one to worship Him in that era. It is evident from God’s rebuke of Cain that Cain marginalized God’s worship instructions. “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.” God implied that Cain did not do as he had been told to do, resulting in sin. “Sin” there means “an offense.” Cain had offended God by the way in which he worshipped Him! Furthermore, sins come between sinners and God (Isaiah 59:1-2).
It is evident that God had specific expectations of Cain and Abel consistent with them having received instructions from God about acceptable worship. Thereby, Cain did not do well, though he could have done well, and Abel did do well in his worship of God. Besides, Hebrews 11:4 implies that Abel followed instructions for acceptable worship. “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.” Forasmuch as “faith” derives from divine instruction, in order for Abel to have exhibited faith by his acceptable worship, he had to have acted consistently with divine instruction that he had received. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
Worship offered to God today that does not correspond to divine instruction in the New Testament is no more acceptable to God than was Cain’s worship acceptable to God eons ago. We in the Gospel Age need to follow what God has placed in the New Testament about how He wants to be worshipped in order for our worship to be acceptable to Him. Each of us today needs to ask our self, “Am I following God’s instructions for worshipping Him?”
While it is true that Cain worshipped the true God, it is obvious that he pleased himself instead of God by the way he chose to worship. We must never forget that our worship is intended primarily to please God rather than ourselves; our worship of God may be pleasing to us, but it must be pleasing to God in order for it to be acceptable to Him.
Many people around the world still worship idols and false gods. Yet, many people do worship the true God, but like Cain, they worship in such a way as to please themselves rather than to please God – by worshipping Him as He directed in the New Testament. This was also happening in the first century, and the apostle Paul referred to it as “will worship” (Colossians 2:23 KJV). The NKJV renders the verse, “These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion…”
How we worship God is a choice that we make, just like Cain made a choice of how he worshipped God. Worshippers today can choose to worship God in His own appointed way, or they can choose to worship God with their “self-imposed religion” or “will worship.” Ask yourself, “Am I exercising myself in will worship, or am I worshipping God in the manner in which He has instructed me to worship Him?”
Cain’s worship to the one true God of the universe was rejected because it was not authorized by God. Cain definitely sinned by not worshipping God correctly, and likewise, everyone in the Christian Age who worships God in unauthorized ways also sins.
Anyone the least familiar with New Testament instruction knows that God does not expect mankind to worship Him in the Christian Age with animal sacrifices. That type of worship and other details under Patriarchy and Judaism do not apply today because the New Testament has replaced the Old Testament (Romans 7:6-7; Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14). Instead, there are five activities of worship that God requires or has authorized for Christian worship.
In no particularly prescribed order, Christian worship involves the Lord’s Supper, teaching or preaching, prayer, singing and a contribution. The Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20), communion (1 Corinthians 10:16) or “to break bread” (Acts 20:7) occurs weekly on the first day of the week. Breaking bread is accompanied with teaching or preaching (Acts 20:7) for the purpose of edifying those assembled (1 Corinthians 14:12). Worship also includes prayer and singing (1 Corinthians 14:15). Singing words rather using instrumental music or miscellaneous vocal sounds are authorized to sound forth “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19) whereby singers "teach and admonish one another” (Colossians 3:16). Each week, Christians also gather a contribution. The specific reason for which the “church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2) took a collection weekly then was to alleviate the benevolent needs of famine-struck Christians in Palestine (1 Corinthians 16:1-3); there are a number of additional financial responsibilities that the church has (1 Corinthians 9:1-14), but freewill giving according to one’s prosperity and determination (2 Corinthians 9:6-7) is the biblical pattern for financing those responsibilities. Ask yourself, “Am I worshipping God in a way that He has authorized for me to worship Him today?”
So, Cain worshipped God, but how he worshipped God mattered, too. The way in which you and I worship God today also matters. Offering God worship that He rejects defeats the true purpose of worshipping God in the first place.
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
“Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). God used the pen of the prophet Ezekiel to write the truth regarding the stewardship of the soul of humanity. A steward is a person who takes care of what belongs to another. When we consider ourselves and those around us, we must understand that we are stewards of our own souls and the souls of those we meet. Humanity belongs to God in at least one of two ways. First, every individual belongs to God because He created everyone (Psalm 100:3). Secondly, Christians belong to God in a special way because He purchased us (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Thus, in a very real way, God has entrusted every human being with the stewardship of an immortal soul. Consider the truth regarding this trust.
Firstly, we must understand the Possessor of the soul. “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine…” (Ezekiel 18:4a). This statement is true of all humanity, Christian or not. The soul of every person is God’s by right of creation (Genesis 1:26; 2:7; Acts 17:25). As such, mankind must understand that although seldom admitting it, people do not “own” themselves, but rather God owns them. Therefore, what I desire to do is not ultimately up to me, but I must be pleasing to the Owner (God) of my soul.
Secondly, we must understand the problem of the soul. “…the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 184b). What each person chooses to do with his or her life affects the eternality of the soul. Although all souls belong to God, He has given freedom to mankind to do with one’s own soul as he or she so chooses. In the days of antiquity, Joshua declared, “Choose you this day…” (cf. Joshua 24:15). Through Jeremiah, God confirmed, “And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death” (Jeremiah 21:8; cf. Matthew 7:13ff; et al). God allows us to choose, and if we choose incorrectly, our soul’s destiny is at stake (cf. Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
Thirdly, we must clearly understand the plan for the soul. God’s plan for every soul is salvation (cf. John 3:16-17). In fact, God’s heart breaks when a soul is lost (Ezekiel 18:32; 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9). God’s plan includes the church. We are God’s plan to save the souls of lost humanity (Ephesians 3:9-11). Surely that is why so much emphasis is given to preaching and spreading the Gospel throughout the world (cf. Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Romans 1:13ff).
A few minutes after Robin Williams died, the news had flooded the world. Within a day or two, almost everyone in the world had heard that this American actor had died. Sadly, our Lord died some 2,000 years ago, and still there are many who have never heard about it. We have been entrusted with the souls of humanity. We have been saved to serve and share the message of our Lord’s death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). It is up to us; will the world hear? Let’s get busy, because eternity weighs in the balances!
[Editor’s Note: “Eternity weighs in the balances,” obviously, for those who need to hear the glad tidings of good news of the Gospel of Christ. However, “eternity weighs in the balances” for Christians, too, who have the responsibility to take the Word of God to the lost world. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]
Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: When I say to the wicked, You shall surely die, and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul. (Ezekiel 3:17-21 NKJV)