Gen 4:3-6 2 Ti 3:16-17
In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
With our rational mind of course. We are humans and as such if my understanding can not follow it rationally I am likely to go wrong. is it not? Rasputin the mad monk of Tsarist Russia belonged to a sect that held on literally to the Romans vs.1 Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? He committed sin on the basis of the Pauline verse. He indulged in orgy so God’s grace may abound. He sinned so he may find grace! He made Grace as a medium for cleaning up his lust for flesh. Did it cure him? No he died of it.
Take this verse:
And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell (Matt 18:9)Even though blind cannot one sin?
I cited these extreme examples to show there are areas where literal interpretation or common sense cannot do work properly. In interpreting Bible especially.
As a Christian I believe the Scriptures is God breathed. If I accept the account of Genesis where God breathed into man what am to infer? I have that spirit, is it not? Spirit of man can be understood by man and things of God are better understood and followed through by His spirit. If I try to understand by the spirit of man I do not think the Bible would have held much interest to me. Instead the Book has been a source of great delight to me and many passages have on several occasions served me in the manner these were meant to do: teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness(2Ti 3:17). It has taught me in the past when I was more likely to go wrong and also prevented me at times from following certain course of action. The third aspect of training is what I expect- and it is for my lifetime, so my life may not be drawn off the rails when I least expect it. Samson was confident of his strength but he found he had become like any other when the Philistines came upon him. There are such instances I could learn from. Even so there are great areas I cannot make sense literally or spiritually. I leave these aside since there are enough lessons my life in flesh can learn. So I do not dismiss the book as of no meaning.
The story of Cain and Abel is a story and it can be understood at different levels. The moral of the story is plain as day and it is provided in the vs 7. Considering that Jesus refers to it Mt.23:35 it must have held certain significance to him. Abel is qualified as righteous because he pleased God with his sacrifice. God found favor with his offering while He did not favor that of Cain.Cannot God exercise free will that we often appropriate for ourselves to justify our actions? The consequence of God’s preference outs Cain’s nature. He murdered Abel stealthily.
God is Spirit.It is spirit of foreknowledge that Simon Peter could use when he identified correctly who Jesus was.
16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.(Matt 16:17)
We have that spirit of God and it is what keeps us falling into the hands of the Evil One. The Scriptures being God inspired we grow in His knowledge by correctly handling the Word.
Since the Scriptures is to be understood spiritually let me see what the story of Cain and Abel teaches us. God clothed man with skins since he felt shame in his nakedness. I think this act prefigures the atoning work of Jesus. Abel must have spiritually discerned how to find favor with God.
In trying to understand the Bible I find certain helpful tips. I find St. Paul’s instruction to Timothy very useful. Of this I shall come back by and by.
While studying a text ask yourself:
Does this passage belong in spirit with rest of the Bible? From the selected text of Cain and Abel let me point out the following;
Abel’s offer of fat portions from his flock echoes in the sacrifice of OT priests. God clothing Adam and Eve with skins also bear the truth in the Pauline epistle: without shedding of blood there is no remission or redemption.
Does the passage teach some needful or useful lesson?
Does it rebuke some trait that you have carelessly allowed to remain? Such a trait could be standing in your relationship with God and man.
This means you need to read the Bible in the right spirit and meditate over the passage. After all the main thing is how you may get the best out of your reading. If you handle the word of God correctly, as Paul writes to Timothy you are being trained in righteousness.