Cain and Abel

Hebrews 12: 23 Instead, you have come  to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to God who is the Judge of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect, 24 to Jesus (mediator of a new covenant), and to the sprinkled blood, which says better things than the blood of Abel.

I John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared;

mark: except in our direction? Are people who ask how many works or how much sin, even by their questions, not even pretending to have a different orientation now?

“but we know that( when he appears, we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is”.

mark: But are we enough (don’t ask how much) like him already that you can see the results in morality even in contrast with the relatively religious Jew or Muslim? Are we even now seeing Him more, and one aspect of “grace” is that which causes a better performance on our part?

12We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.

mark: What is the evil deed here? What is the righteous deed? Is the evil deed the murder? No, even though murder is an evil deed, Cain murdered Abel because of Cain’s status as an unbeliever in God’s gospel. Cain is a bad tree who thereby necessarily brings forth fruit which is all bad, all unacceptable, all dis-approved. So it’s not a matter of more and more, but of either/or. There are those who abide in God’s gospel and those who do not.

I John is not comparing morality with immorality. It is not mere morality that the world hates. It was not morality that Cain hated. Cain hated Abel’s gospel because that gospel said that even Cain’s best efforts to please God (the best of his fruits, with all sincerity) were an abomination to God.

Cain’s works were evil, according to God’s gospel, which Abel believed. For this reason, Cain murdered Abel. For this reason, the world hates those who believe the gospel of imputed righteousness. (3:13)

But what does I John have to say about gospel or imputation? Isn’t it about one of the “pegs of assurance”?: better morality, without being perfectionist about it? I John 4:16 is about the good news, God’s love for “us”, not for those who “went out from us”. God’s election is “perfected with us, so that we have confidence in the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in the world.”

I John 4:17 does not use the word imputation, but that is the only way the elect can be as He is in the world. (Check out your commentaries on this: even those who deny that the righteousness of Matthew 5:20 is imputed, even those who deny that the “fine linen” of the saints are by imputation, even most of these commentators agree that God’s love here results in the elect having legal union with Christ’s obedience even to death).

Now we can make distinctions where we say, yes my ultimate hope is imputed righteousness (not as that which makes up the difference, but as that which is sufficient for the elect), but right now my assurance of that verdict also depends on this new morality with which I have been graced.

But I John 3 is about the difference between a Nicodemus and a prodigal publican, about the difference between Cain and Abel. Both may be moral, both may be religious, but when the gospel points out that even the morality and the religion of Cain is nothing but evil deeds, there you will see hostility to God and God’s people who believe the gospel.

You don’t have to be effectually called to become ashamed of murder. But the reason Cain murdered was that He wanted to glory in/ rejoice in (Phil 3:3) the deeds done by his false god in his body. Cain refused to put to death those deeds (Rom 8:13), even though “religious and moral” deeds by an unbeliever are an abomination to God.

Those deeds were motivated by a mercenary spirit seeking assurance by means of deeds. Cain in the flesh “could not please God” (Rom 8:8), not even with his morality and religious worship.

To pass over from death to life is to receive a new direction, in which one’s confidence is not in what God does in you but rather in what God has done in Christ outside you. Only in this way can we be in the world as Christ was in the world.

Two positions: “those who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the mind to the standard of doctrine to which they are committed” (Rom 6:17) so that there are “things of which you are now ashamed” (Rom 6:21).

You may have been ashamed of immorality before, but not of your false worship and not of your assurance based partly on your works that you thank God that you can do, not like the publican.

The Cains of this world are ready for a self-examination and contrast in terms of their morality. But they will not come to the light, because they love darkness and the light of the gospel will tell them their deeds are evil, all their deeds, even their moral deeds. (John 3:19)

Abel “does what is true”. Abel abides in the gospel. Romans 4:4 “now to the one who works, his wages are counted as what is due.”

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9 Comments on “Cain and Abel”

  1. David Bishop Says:

    This was the reason why Gottschalk was imprisoned and then later murdered. It had nothing to do with the fact he held to double-predestination; rather, it was for this reason right here; that his double-predestination spelled out Cain’s doom, and that there was nothing Cain could do about it.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    might walk in newness of life.

    q: Doesn’t this point to regeneration by Holy Spirit?

    mark: what “this”? My answer is no, as my essays on Romans 6 make clear. Look at Romans 7:1-6, either married the right person and produce fruit or not, either dead in Christ or not.

    2. I am not denying that we are born again, but I am denying that it’s the answer of Romans 6. Dead or alive, why do you assume that “newness of life” means infused or imparted or changed nature? Judicial death and life are the issue in the text. The text does not say: sin shall not have dominion because you are born again or because you have the Holy Spirit.

    3. I can’t just say, well, there is an exegetical difference of opinion on chapter 6 (as I would in the last of chapter 7), because the main view ignores the fact that Jesus died, that Jesus was justified, that Jesus was under the law, all legal categories. The ones who even notice this (Moo) start talking about two ages, and a shift in redemptive history, and that’s true, but it does not come to terms with the fact that Jesus was not born again, and we die His death . So nothing in the text says that the death and new life is birth by the Holy Spirit. It was not in the case of Jesus. We don’t die a different kind of death of our own, not in this text. We die by imputation Christ’s death. As Machen explained, the death is not an improvement of our nature and ability, but a full satisfaction of the law.

    4. I am so dogmatic about this, not only because people are ignoring the text, but also because they have a theology like Ferguson against Forde, which worries about justification of the ungodly being enough of an answer, so they say, don’t worry, there’s regeneration also. . There are many problems with Forde, but the answer is not to back away from the legal categories in Romans 6. I think Horton would not deny the legal, but when he says “more than that”, for some parts (the new life), then he has effectively denied that the atonement is the answer in Romans 6.

    q: We are freed (justified) from sin due to the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. We are made alive with him by the Holy Spirit in regeneration so that we now “might walk in newness of life as servants of righteousness. Something has not only changed legally but inwardly to put me in a walk of newness of live as a servant of righteousness.

    mark. 1. I don’t totally disagree with the theology. The something which has changed internally is that we hear the gospel, the effectual call, now we can and do believe the doctrine.. But the “inward” work of the Spirit is not there in the text. 2. Was there an inward work of the Spirit bring Christ from death to life? Again, theologically, I agree to the Spirit’s agency not only in the resurrection but also in every minute of Christ’s incarnate life before His death.

    But in the text of Romans 6, why is Christ free from the law and sin? Is it the Spirit that makes Christ free? No, it’s Christ’s death as satisfaction which makes him free, the law can demand no more, the law has no more power over Christ in that one and only sense. And the law has no more power over the justified in that one and only way. The newness of life is not our yet future resurrection at the second coming, because the newness of life is what we have now because we are justified from the law.

    q: Paul makes this point more clearly in Rom. 8: 11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

    mark: yes, that’s an “in you” point, but it’s not “this point”, it’s not the point in Romans 6, because that’s an “In Him” or “in his death” text. This is one reason why I keep saying, let’s not say “union”, lets define our terms, and say IN HIM or HIM IN US.

    q: Paul is responding to the accusation that if we are legally justified from sin then that means we should sin in order for grace to abound. Paul says the good news is that we are now also alive to God as his servants. That’s the work of regeneration, isn’t it?

    mark: no. Was Christ regenerated?

    q: Because he doesn’t spell it out right there

    mark: he doesn’t spell it out because it’s not there. and when you focus on what’s not there, you miss what is there. John Murray and Piper, for example, not only deny that the legal change is there, they say that legal change would not be a good enough answer. So for them Christ’s atonement outside of us (in HIM) is not a good answer. Now you could say, well they don’t think it’s a good answer alone, but itself, so you need regeneration also. But that’s not what they say, they say, regeneration is the answer that makes justification safe. So justification -to them–is not even part of the answer in Romans 6. They dismiss any idea that the power of sin (and of Satan) is the guilt of sin (I Cor 15;56).

    I agree that justification, identification with Christ’s death/righteousness, is not part of the answer in Romans 6. It’s the entire answer. Christ was not regenerated Christ died to the law by the law. To be justified from sin is to be identified with that death.

    q: Imputation is the basis for regeneration and being made “alive together with Christ.” (Eph. 2 and Col. 2)

    mark: we are going to have to talk about Ephesians 2 and Colossians 2 another day, but I tell you that they also are about legal states. Preview, without denying that Romans 2 speaks of inner circumcision, I don’t think circumcision in Colossians 2 is talking about regeneration but about Christ’s bloody death, and being cut off from the body of death means being cut off from the guilt.

    Again, some of this will go back to our assumptions about “baptism”, water baptism and other kinds of baptism. If you immediately think “regeneration” when you think of baptism, then you are going to miss the truth of “death in Christ”. The other two texts, besides Eph 2 and Col 2, would be Gal 2:19-21 and II Cor 4:14-15.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    ” Walk in newness of life.” Many people are I think confused when they come to the word “walk”, and therefore read the Christian life of obeying Christ’s commands into Romans 6. “Walk” is used by Paul that way in other texts. Seven times in Ephesians. But it is the context that determines the meaning of words. A very important parallel to Romans 6:4 is 8:4 where the same word is used and the context again is justification by Christ having fulfilled the demands of the law. Those who believe the gospel are people who walk by the Spirit. Those who don’t believe the gospel do NOT walk by the Spirit. But people see “walk” in 8:4 and think of Christian obedience after justification. Haldane I think has it right when he says that to walk according to the Spirit is following the gospel, and not walking according to the flesh is not relying on the flesh, or any false gospel as in Phil. 3:3 and Gal. 3:3.

  4. markmcculley Says:

    The good son walks into the field
    He is a tiller,
    But down in his heart now
    He lays down plans
    Against his brother
    But it’s his father, he says, is an unfair man

    The good son has sat and often wept
    And the night-time in which he’s wrapped
    Speaks of good and speaks of evil
    And he calls to his mother
    And he calls to his father
    But they are deaf in the shadows
    Of his brother’s truancy

    The good son
    he curses his mother
    And he curses his father
    And he curses his virtue like an unclean thing

    It began when they
    put me in Dead Row…
    the mercy seat is waiting
    And I think my head is burning
    And in a way I’m yearning
    To be done with all this measuring of proof.
    An eye for an eye
    A tooth for a tooth
    And anyway
    I’m not afraid to die.
    I hear stories
    How Christ was born into a manger
    And like some ragged stranger
    Died upon the cross
    In Heaven His throne is made of gold
    The ark of his Testament
    A throne from which I’m told
    All history does unfold.
    Down here it’s made of wood and wire
    And my body is on fire
    Into the mercy seat I climb
    My head is shaved, my head is wired
    And like a moth that tries
    To enter the bright eye
    So I go shuffling out of life
    And the mercy seat is waiting
    And I think my head is burning
    And in a way I’m yearning
    To be done with all this measuring of proof
    An eye for an eye
    And a tooth for a tooth
    But I’m afraid I told a lie. Nick Cave, the mercy seat

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Genesis 4: 10 Then He said, “What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground! 11 So now you are cursed, alienated, from the ground that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood you have shed. 12 If you work the ground, it will never again give you its yield. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

    13 But Cain answered the Lord, “My punishment is too great to bear! 14 Since You are banishing me today from the soil, and I must hide myself from Your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth, whoever finds me will kill me.”

    15 Then the Lord replied to him, “In that case, whoever kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” And He placed a mark on Cain so that whoever found him would not kill him. 16 Then Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

  6. markmcculley Says:

    Many who believe in predestination have no problem with God having predestined themselves to an inheritance . But the idea of God’s election having already decided for whom Christ died and this death being the only difference (physical descent excluded) disturb many Augustinians. The Jews who tried to push Jesus Christ off the cliff in Luke 4 were not that angry about “opening up the covenant to more people” ( gentiles and females). What disturbed them was any idea that God was not going to accept their own status as covenant children and the covenant status of their own physical offspring. Sure, God can “open up” the covenant, but it’s unthinkable to the old life synagogue that God would “narrow the covenant” or even say that the new covenant is not the same as the old covenants.

    Matthew 23: 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to Gehenna? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you will come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.

    What do you have against both Cain and Abel inheriting salvation from Adam?

    Acts 7: 51 “You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit; as your ancestors did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They even killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. 53 You received the law under the direction of angels and yet have not kept it.”

    54 When they heard these things, they were enraged in their hearts and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, filled by the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven. He saw God’s glory, with[v] Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, 56 “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

    57 Then they screamed at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and together rushed against him. 58 They threw him out of the city and began to stone him. And the witnesses laid their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 They were stoning Stephen as he called out: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin!” And saying this, he fell asleep.

    “But that’s the Mosaic administration of the covenant of grace, not the Abrahamic covenant…..”
    Acts 7: 2 “Brothers and fathers,” Stephen said, “listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia and said to him: Get out of your country and away from your relatives,
    …. 4 “Then Abraham came out of the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After his father died, God had Abraham move to this land you now live in. 5 God didn’t give him an inheritance in it, not even a (square inch), but God promised to give it to Abraham as a possession, and to his descendants after him, even though he was childless. 6 God spoke in this way (Genesis 15 covenant):
    Abraham’s descendants would be strangers
    in a foreign country,
    and they would oppress them 400 years.
    7 I will judge the nation
    that they will serve as slaves, God said.
    After this, Abraham’s descendants will come out
    and worship Me in this place.
    8 Then God gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision…

  7. markmcculley Says:

    1. In the case of the martyrs under the altar we must turn to the Bible’s account of the first martyr: Abel. When Cain murdered his brother it was Abel’s blood, not Abel himself, that is said to cry out to the Lord for justice (Gen. 4:8-11). Abel’s blood, however, is not literally a part of Abel separable from Abel himself. This is but a very graphic figure of speech. Abel’s blood stands for Abel himself. Just as Abel did not literally cry out from the ground, so too the “souls” of the martyrs (not a part of the martyrs, separable from the martyrs, but the martyrs themselves) do not literally cry out for justice.

    2. The book of Leviticus draws a strong connection between the life of the soul [the person] and the blood (Lev. 17:11). Medically speaking, blood carries oxygen throughout the body. Life is thus literally carried in the blood! The Bible often uses the terms soul and blood in parallel, even interchangeably. Isaiah prophesies of the Messiah that he “poured out his soul unto death” (Isa. 53:12). It was Jesus’ lifeblood that was poured out unto death at the cross.

    3. Indeed, though the priests of old put some of the blood of the sacrifice upon the horns of the altar of incense, they poured most of the blood onto the ground at the foot of the altar of burnt offering (Lev. 4:7). The “souls” of the martyrs are “under the altar”, their blood, as it were, poured out in sacrifice to God. Though the language is figurative the truths expressed are very real: The oppressors of God’s people will not go unpunished; his servants will be rewarded. They may have to wait. They may have to suffer, even unto death, as many have before them, but they are not forgotten. Their blood speaks, as does the blood of Abel

  8. markmcculley Says:

    Genesis 4:15 whoever kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” And the Lord placed a mark on Cain so that whoever found him would not kill Cain.

  9. Mark Mcculley Says:

    Colin Kruse—The apparent contradiction between I John 1:8-9 and
    3:6-9, concerning whether Christians do or do not continue to sin is
    not resolved in the traditional fashion (occasional vs habitual sin).
    Kruse’s analysis of the meaning of anomia, which is not to be
    interpreted etymologically (i.e. lawlessness), but as the type of
    sinful rebellion that typified the secessionists (see the “sin that
    leads to death”)

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