At the fall of man
The system of sacrificial offerings was introduced by God at the time of the fall of Adam and Eve before they were expelled from Eden. The Bible says that “God made tunics of skin, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). The animal skins were a reminder of the fact that death is the wages of sin, and of the promised Lamb of God, who would by His own death redeem the world.
The sacrificial offerings, though not specifically mentioned, were instituted at this time. The story of Cain’s and Abel’s sacrifices shows that the first sons of Adam and Eve knew about this service. If God had not given clear directions concerning sacrifices, His approval of Abel’s offering and His disapproval of Cain’s would have been unjust.
God rejected Cain’s offering
“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” (Genesis 4:3-5).
What made Cain’s offering unacceptable to God? While Cain admitted, in part, God’s claim upon him, he had a spirit of rebellion which made him obey God’s command in a way of his own choosing rather than follow in detail the plan set by God.
Cain tried to justify himself by his own works, to earn salvation by his own efforts. He refused to see himself as a sinner in need of a redeemer, he offered a gift that showed no repentance of sin. His gift was a bloodless offering. The Bible declares, “without shedding of blood is no remission,” for “it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul” (Hebrews 9:22; Leviticus 17:11). Cain believed in the existence of God and His power to grant or take away blessings. He thought it is best to avert divine wrath by a gift of his own choosing.
God Accepted Abel’s offering
By contrast, Abel’s offering was a demonstration of faith (Hebrews 11:4). While Cain’s offering, was an attempt to earn salvation by works, Abel’s offering showed faith in the plan of salvation and in the atoning sacrifice of Christ. “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” (Hebrews 11:4).
Cain kills Abel
As a result, “Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell” (Genesis 4:5). However, there was no true repentance of his sin and no prayer for pardon. Cain’s behavior is a typical example of unrepentant sinner who is unwilling to change his wrong actions.
Yet, in mercy and patience, God was ready to give Cain another chance. “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“ (Genesis 4:6,7).
Unfortunately, Cain didn’t respond to God’s goodness nor repent. Instead, he “rose up against Abel his brother and killed him” (Genesis 4:8). Cain’s “works were evil and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12). Cain’s sin revealed the true nature of the devil as “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). The enmity between good and evil was seen now for the first time in its most deadly form. There was a contrast of two distinct “seeds” within the human race – the obedient and disobedient.
In His service,