“Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain” – Jude 11
Cain is a man with not so great a testimony. He is known for being the first murder. Many know his story of being driven by jealousy and rage. In the short book of Jude, there is a reference to the condition and manner of Cain’s demise. The book of Jude is a stern warning against the apostates who had emerged during the church of the time. In his inspired rebuke of these false teachers, Jude states “Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain” (Jude 11).
What is the way of Cain? It would seem that the way of Cain is that of covetousness, jealousy and murder. This is of course accurate, but as we look closer at the story of Cain and his brother we can develop a deeper understanding of what Jude meant by the way of Cain.
Cain – the Acquirer
We read the accounts of Cain in Genesis 4:1-15. The name ‘Cain’ means ‘Acquire.’ Biblically, names are synonymous with one’s nature and character. Accordingly, we see many individuals whose names were changed in the bible as God transformed their nature (e.g. Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Saul to Paul). Cain possessed the nature of an acquirer. We see this nature manifested through the offering he presented to the Lord. The offering was neither his best nor of his first fruit harvest. Unlike Able, we get no indication in the accounts of the story that the offering that Cain presented was of his finest harvest. Unlike Cain, “Abel brought of the first-born of his flock and of their fat” (Gen. 4:4). In Cain we see a nature of one who was self-centered and who failed to present his best to the Lord. His desire was to attain and possess the best for himself.
As we look closer at the nature of Cain, it is important to realize that he was the firstborn. Spiritually, the firstborn is synonymous with the natural man. Notice the one first on the scene in our experience is the first Adam who is a living soul. “The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45). This Adamic consciousness in man was first predominant in all who were born as a living soul. Notice “the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterwards the spiritual” (1 Cor. 15:46). Cain as the firstborn is thus likened to the first Adam who was possessed and ruled by his soul. The soul is the seat of self. The souls is that which possesses the attributes of an acquirer. Its desires are rooted in self – self-promotion, self-interest, self-recognition, self-indulgence, self-effort.
Tiller of the Ground
Cain was a tiller of the ground while his brother was a keeper of flocks. It is no coincidence then that Cain would bring his offering from the fruit of the ground (Gen. 4:3). Cain’s relationship with the ground is of great spiritual importance as it characterizes the nature from which Cain lived and related with God. The ground was his livelihood and the source of his sustenance. The ground was also the means through which he communed with God by presenting his offering from its fruits. Notice the word used for ‘ground’ is the Hebrew “Adamah” which means soil, earth or land and comes from the root “Adam.”
Spiritually, what does it mean then to till the ground? It means that Cain cultivated and lived out of the fruits of his Adamic nature. He continuously toiled and labored to produce fruit from his ground; from the soulical realm of the natural man. Tilling the ground; removing weeds, cultivating, digging and preparing the soil is a physically demanding and laborious task. Therefore, it is perhaps understandable that Cain would be disappointed that God had not accepted his offering. His brother on the other hand kept the flocks, which was not as demanding a task and in fact involved a great deal of rest.
The Hebrew word for ‘tiller’ is ‘Abad’ which means to “labour,” “work” and it also means “to work for another or serve another by labor.” The root word also indicates being enslaved, being kept in bondage, being a bondman and providing bond-service. After his fall, God declared to Adam: “cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life” (Gen. 3:17). Cain epitomizes this fallen state of Adam. He was enslaved to the dictates of the Adamic nature and was a bondman to his Adamic consciousness. He labored and toiled to eat from this nature. Cain as the first-born represented a living soul who was under the bondage of the carnal mind and who labored out of this nature.
Abel – An Acceptable Offering
Not only was Cain occupied with tilling his ground, he also offered the fruit of the ground and of his effort to the Lord. Unlike his brother Cain, Abel presented an acceptable offering. “Abel also brought of the first-born of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but he did not respect Cain and his offering” (Gen. 4:4).
The offering of Abel was not just an outward act but an offering that originated from the right nature. God did not just accept Abel’s offering but He accepted Able himself. It states: “and the Lord respected Abel and his offering” (Gen. 4:4). Abel was himself an acceptable offering. His very being was acceptable before God. This nature from which Able gave was acceptable to God because it emanated from the nature of the second-born; the last Adam – from Christ Himself who is a quickening spirit (1 Cor. 15:45). Notice again that “the first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven” (1 Cor. 15:47). Abel represents one who gave from the Christ nature. He gave the first-born of the flock and of their fat. Their fat indicates the choicest and best part.
There is a great lesson to be gained from these two men. In all things, we need to realize that what sanctifies our conduct and action is the nature from which it originates. Jesus asked the Pharisees: “For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift?” (Matt. 23:19). The Pharisees had emphasized the importance of the size of the offering. Their focus was on the outward acts of righteousness while their inside was full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. The quality of the offering is determined by the altar. The altar represents the nature, the essence, the person. The right nature and the one approved to the Father is that of Christ. Christ Himself. Not Adam conforming to Christ or Adam masquerading as Christ. It is Christ who sanctifies and makes an offering acceptable to God. For this cause the Spirit of Christ was imparted unto us. Jesus affirms: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (Jhn.15:5).
The harvest that God is after in this age is the life of Christ birthed in us. This was the ministry up-most in Paul’s life. “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again, till Christ may be formed in you” (Gal. 4:19). Christ must increase we must decrease until only He shows through in our humanity. He must increase until we find our being in Him. He must increase until we move and live in Him. He must increase until ‘I’ is crucified. Thus Paul proclaims: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20). The opposition to this becoming reality in us is the very nature of Adam who endeavors to endure at all cost. Sadly, the ministry of our day has also preserved Adam.
There is a big difference between ministry that attempts to conform Adam and that which births Christ in a people. Many in the church system today are busy tilling their ground. They attempt through their various programs and methods to make Adam a good christian. They minister to self. They encourage, edify, uplift and fuel the soulish man week in and week out. Little wonder then that people are not experiencing spiritual maturity. “Become the better version of yourself” they say. Their actions and motives are soul driven. They are occupied with entertaining Adam. They are busy, working hard and laboring to present to the Lord the fruit of their ground. However, such an offering is not acceptable to God since it emanates from the nature of the first man – Adam; the living soul. This is the way of Cain.
The ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ is in stark contrast to the ministry of the contemporary church systems. He declares: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me…whoever loses his life (soul) for My sake will find it” (Matt. 16:24). Adam can’t be conformed to Christ contrary to the efforts of religion. The only remedy for Adam is to be crucified. But this is a hard message, who will hear it.
Thus the offering of Cain is synonymous with religion, ceremony, forms, and the traditions of men. These emanate from the ground of man. These seemingly religious activities are fruitless. Paul declares: “these indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:23). The King James rendering refers to “self-imposed religion” as “will worship” or soulish worship. This is worship presented to the Father that emanates from the soul. It appeals to the soul accompanied with great outward paraphernalia. But what God desires are worshipers that worship in spirit and in truth. God wants nothing that emanates from your Adamic ground, call it worship, service, prayer or ministry. Those who hold to this labor are those who till their ground to bring forth fruit from their Adamic nature to present it to God. This is self-imposed religion. This is the way of Cain.
God desires that we bring forth the acceptable nature – that of Christ. So, let us depart from the way of Cain. Let us follow the way of Able and present to God all that proceeds from the nature of the indwelling Christ, for only this nature and all the fruits that proceed from Him are acceptable and well-pleasing to the Father.