Two Types of Religion

Genesis 4:1-8 – Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” 2 And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” 8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.

Many years ago, I heard a Bible teacher describe the following five contrasts between the religion of Abel and the religion of Cain.

(1) Abel’s religion was based on divine revelation – According to Heb. 11:4, Abel’s offering was given in faith, and according to Rom. 10:17, the way faith comes is through the means of hearing the word of God.
Cain rejected divine revelation.

(2) Abel acknowledged the need for a substitutionary sacrifice.
Cain denied the need for a substitutionary sacrifice.

(3) Abel received supernatural attestation – it was clear to both brothers that Abel’s offering was accepted by God (through what means we are not told).
Cain received no supernatural attestation.

(4) Abel’s religion produced a martyr.
Cain’s religion produced a murderer.

(5) Abel’s religion will bring forth the bride.
Cain’s religion will bring forth the harlot.

Since the dawn of time, the greatest enemy of the true Church has always been the false Church. This will always be the case until the return of Jesus (Rev 17:6 – And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus)


(1) The Religion of Man says “by self effort we can climb the mountain of God.” (ascent)
The Gospel of God says, “Christ came down the mountain in order to die for us and raise us up to be with Him.” (Eph 2:4-6) (descent)

(2) The Religion of Man says “look to your works.”
The Gospel of God says “look to God’s grace.”
(Rom Rom 3:28, 4:4,5; 11:6, Eph 2:8,9 )

(3) The Religion of Man seeks to give good advice.
The Gospel of God reveals Good News!
(News of an accomplished event)

Most Americans believe that their major problem is something that has happened to them, and that their solution is to be found within. In other words, they believe that they have an alien problem that is to be resolved with an inner solution. What they gospel says, however, is that we have an inner problem that demands an alien solution—a righteousness that is not our own. – Al Mohler, ‘Preaching with the Culture in View,’ in Preaching the Cross (Crossway 2007), p. 81. That’s very clarifying.

(4) The Religion of man says, “The problem is outside you, the solution inside you.
The Gospel of God says, “The problem is inside you, the solution outside you.

(5) The Religion of Man says “sanctification will bring you justification.”
The Gospel of God says, “Justification leads to sanctification.”

Romans 5:1 “Therefore having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Romans 4:4,5 “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness..”

Tullian Tchividjian – “I once assumed the gospel was simply what non-Christians must believe in order to be saved, while afterward we advance to deeper theological waters. But I’ve come to realize that ” the gospel isn’t the first step in a stairway of truths, but more like the hub in a wheel of truth.” In other words, once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel, but to move them more deeply into it. All good theology, in fact, is an exposition of the gospel.

In his letter to the Christians of Colossae, the apostle Paul portrays the gospel as the instrument of all continued growth and spiritual progress, even after a believer’s conversion.

“All over the world,” he writes, “this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth” (Col. 1:6). He means that the gospel is not only growing wider in the world but it’s also growing deeper in Christians.

After meditating on Paul’s words, a friend told me that all our problems in life stem from our failure to apply the gospel. This means I can’t really move forward unless I learn more thoroughly the gospel’s content and how to apply it to all of life. Real change does not and cannot come independently of the gospel. God intends his Good News in Christ to mold and shape us at every point and in every way. It increasingly defines the way we think, feel, and live.

Martin Luther often employed the phrase simul justus et peccator—”simultaneously justified and sinful.” He understood that while he’d already been saved from sin’s penalty, he was in daily need of salvation from sin’s power. And since the gospel is the “power of God for salvation,” he knew that even for the most saintly of saints, the gospel is wholly relevant and vitally necessary. This means heralded preachers need the gospel just as much as hardened pagans.

In his book The Gospel for Real Life, Jerry Bridges picks up on this theme–that Christians need the gospel just as much as non-Christians–by explaining how the spiritual poverty in so much of our Christian experience is the result of an inadequate understanding of the gospel’s depths. The answer isn’t to try harder in the Christian life but to comprehend more fully and clearly Christ’s finished work for sinners and then to live in more vital awareness of that grace day by day. The main problem in the Christian life, in other words, is not that we don’t try hard enough to be good. It’s that we haven’t accepted the deep implications of the gospel and applied its powerful reality to all parts of our life.”

2 thoughts on “Two Types of Religion

  1. Appreciate this post and in particular the “The Five Further Contrasts.” Some other thoughts came to mind as I contemplated the subject passage.

    “In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering….and Abel also.” It seems Cain took the initiative, the lead, in bringing an offering to the Lord and Abel then followed. Perhaps it was little brother following the example of big brother. But being quick or enthusiastic about the things of religion does not necessarily make one acceptable or pleasing to the Lord. The words of Christ come to mind here, “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.”

    “And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.” It is the individual that is first acknowledged and then the offering mentioned. This causes me to think the offerings were not an issue in this passage but the hearts of those two brothers. The Lord established grain offerings in the Law so why would he be put off with the offering of Cain? And David wrote in the 51st Psalm, “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Jesus said we can approach God with the right words (even Gospel words), right actions (correct outward sacrifices) and yet our hearts are far from him (Mark 7:6) I have been there, done that. It is faith that pleases the Lord and the letter to the Hebrews tells us Abel’s sacrifice was offered in faith. Once again being quick or enthusiastic in matters of religion does not always mean faith is at work. In fact, just like Cain, it could be sin and not faith at the door of the worshiper’s heart.

    ““Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?” It would seem the Lord is telling us the face is tied directly to the heart. Have you ever seen a bright, cheerful, happy face in a mug shot? I can’t recall one. And having been married now for 43 years I can certainly say “Amen” to the reality of the heart and face being connected.

    But with whom was Cain angry, the Lord or his brother?
    Does not the Lord correct those he loves? His speaking to Cain proved his love for Cain. But love given does not always result in love received. I think Cain is angry at the Lord and not his brother. Often the arrogant are first in their exuberance for religion and acceptance. But an arrogant heart has a hard time with rejection and correction and that arrogrance easily progresses to strife (Proverbs 30:32, 33). Could it be that Abel was in the wrong place at the wrong time? Cain could not physically strike out at the Lord so he takes his anger out on Abel. Jesus said what we do unto this least of his we do unto him (Matthew 25:40, 45).

    Your post has given much for thought and the searching of the heart. Thanks again John

  2. God bless this site Hallelujah! Finally some True “Meat” and “Potatoes” for me In Christ By His Spirit to chew upon(((AMEN)))! LORD Deliver us from the grand self-righteous delusions of all man made, man praised religions!Romans 10:1-4 (KJV)Ro 1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

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