First John: 1 John 3:12-The Recipients of First John Must Never Follow the Example of Cain Lesson # 118
1 John 3:12 We 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. (ESV)
Before we study this verse in detail, it is extremely important that we first study the account of Cain murdering his brother Abel, which is recorded in Genesis 4:1-16.
Genesis 4:1 Now the man had marital relations with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. Then she said, “I have created a man just as the Lord did!” 4:2 Then she gave birth to his brother Abel. Abel took care of the flocks, while Cain cultivated the ground. 4:3 At the designated time Cain brought some of the fruit of the ground for an offering to the Lord. 4:4 But Abel brought some of the firstborn of his flock—even the fattest of them. And the Lord was pleased with Abel and his offering, 4:5 but with Cain and his offering he was not pleased. So Cain became very angry, and his expression was downcast. 4:6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why is your expression downcast? 4:7 Is it not true that if you do what is right, you will be fine? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. It desires to dominate you, but you must subdue it.” 4:8 Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. 4:9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” And he replied, “I don’t know! Am I my brother’s guardian?” 4:10 But the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! 4:11 So now, you are banished from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 4:12 When you try to cultivate the ground it will no longer yield its best for you. You will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.” 4:13 Then Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is too great to endure! 4:14 Look! You are driving me off the land today, and I must hide from your presence. I will be a homeless wanderer on the earth; whoever finds me will kill me.” 4:15 But the Lord said to him, “All right then, if anyone kills Cain, Cain will be avenged seven times as much.” Then the Lord put a special mark on Cain so that no one who found him would strike him down. 4:16 So Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. (NET)
Cain is the firstborn child of humanity, however, he is also infamous in being the first murderer in human history.
The apostle John in 1 John 3:11-12 uses him as an example of one who hates his brother.
Eve acknowledges that Cain her first-born was a gift from the Lord (cf. Ps. 127:3).
The name “Abel” means, “vanity” and indicates that Eve was thoroughly aware of God’s curse on the world in which they lived.
The Lord Jesus Christ testified that Abel was righteous meaning a believer and that he was a prophet according to Matthew 23:35 and Luke 11:50-51.
Genesis 4:3 reveals that Cain was a farmer whereas Abel was a shepherd.
Both men were sinners and approached the Lord with an offering to worship the Lord but only Abel’s offering was accepted since it was presented in faith meaning in obedience to the Lord’s commands whereas Cain’s offering was not accepted because it offered in unbelief, which expressed itself in disobedience.
Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks. (NASB95)
Thus, disobedience and rebellion against God and selfishness and sin are the “way of Cain” as stated by Jude in Jude 11.
Jude 11 Woe to them (licentious false teachers)! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. (NASB95)
The Spirit and the flesh war against one another, thus we have Cain persecuting and murdering his brother Abel who obeyed the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:17).
Cain was not worshipping the Lord since he did so according to his own rules whereas Abel was worshipping since he obeyed the protocol that the Lord had ordained to approach and worship Him, which was through a blood animal sacrifice that portrayed the sacrificial death of the Lamb of God.
Cain adhered to a form of spirituality but denied its power (cf. 2 Tim. 3:5).
By killing the lamb and offering it to God, Abel acknowledged the following: (1) He acknowledged that God was righteous in driving fallen man out of the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:24). (2) He acknowledged that he was a guilty sinner and that death was his just due. (3) He acknowledged that God was holy and must punish sin. (4) He acknowledged that God was merciful and willing to accept the death of an innocent substitute in his place. (5) He acknowledged that he looked for acceptance with God in Christ, the Lamb.
In order for Abel to have operated in faith and Cain to have not, both men had to have heard the Lord’s commands to bring a blood animal sacrifice since faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of Christ according to Romans 10:17.
Cain is bitter and angry that he could not worship the Lord according to his own rules and this was reflected in his face (cf. Prov. 27:19).
In Genesis 4:7, “sin” refers to the indwelling old Adamic sin nature that every person born into the world receives through imputation and is through the function of human volition, the source of all personal sins, mental, verbal and overt (cf. Rom. 5:19).
By failing to present the proper offering to the Lord, Cain was rejecting the promised “Seed” Jesus Christ as His Savior whose death for sin is portrayed in the blood animal sacrifice.
Therefore, God accepted Abel’s offering since it was a blood sacrifice whereas Cain’s offering, was not accepted since it was bloodless (cf. Heb. 9:22).
Also, God did not accept Cain’s offering since it consisted of the fruit of his own work and the product of his own labors, or in other words, the work of his own hands, which expressed his self-righteous arrogance.
Cain was involved in relative human righteousness (cf. Is. 64:6).
God only accepts the righteousness that is received through faith in Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 4:5).
The Lord knew that Cain murdered his brother Abel since He is omniscient meaning He knows perfectly, eternally and simultaneously all that is knowable, both the actual and the possible and thus has all knowledge of every event in human and angel history.
The Lord asked Cain where his brother Abel was because He wanted Cain to confess his guilt and to make Cain aware of his need for forgiveness and a Savior and yet, Cain refused to accept responsibility for his crime.
Cain concealed all traces of his crime by burying the body of his brother Abel in the ground.
The fact that Cain lied to God and claimed that he did not know of the whereabouts of his brother Abel indicated that he was under the deception of Satan who is a liar and a murderer (Jn. 8:44).
It is interesting and ironic that here we see Cain unwilling to offer an animal blood sacrifice to God as was required by God, yet he has no problem shedding his brother’s blood.
Murder is one of the sins that God hates according to Proverbs 6:16-19 and according to Genesis 9:6 is to be punished through capital punishment.
Cain killed Abel in a jealous rage, which reveals the fact that he was an emotional person who was governed by his emotions (cf. Prov. 6:34).
Cain was not only the first murderer in human history but also the first religious persecutor (cf. 2 Tim. 3:12).
Abel is a striking type of Christ and his murder by Cain foreshadowed our Lord’s rejection and crucifixion by the Jews.
Like Christ, Abel was hated without a cause by his brother (Jn. 15:25) and like Christ, Abel was murdered because of envy (Mt. 27:18).
The phrase “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!” indicates that every drop of Abel’s blood that was shed by Cain was a testimony as to the guilt of Cain.
God can no longer speak to Cain in mercy but rather in judgment since he will not accept responsibility for his crime and confess it and recognize his need for forgiveness of his sin and a Savior.
Notice, how Cain is more concerned about his punishment than the terrible sin he has committed and is a manifestation of a great hardness of heart or insensitivity towards sin.
The phrase “whoever finds me will kill me” indicates that Adam and Eve had other children and not just Cain and Abel.
Adam and Eve had other sons and daughters, which would be in accord with Genesis 1:28, 3:16 and 5:4.
However, God deals graciously with Cain by setting a sign to protect Cain from those who would seek to avenge the death of Abel.
The Bible does not state the nature of this sign but only that it would protect Cain.
To be avenged sevenfold means that anyone who kills Cain in vengeance would be fully and completely avenged.
“Nod” means, “wandering” and this land was given that name because Cain wandered there.
Like Cain, those who did not exercise faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and live in sin and hate are simply restless wanderers who are not living in the presence of God but instead are walking in the spiritual darkness of sin and hate that constitutes Satan’s cosmic system (cf. 1 John 2:11).