Cain and Abel: Unscriptural Worship

By H.E. Phillips

Worship springs from the heart, and it expresses gratitude, affection and adoration. Cornelius offered such worship to Peter for coming to his home with the word of salvation, but Peter refused it (Acts 10:25). One worships when he feels great gratitude, awe and fear.

Worship means different things to different people. For that reason the majority do not take the time to learn the difference between true worship and false worship. All worship that does not conform to God’s will in all respects is not scriptural worship.

The Worship of Cain and Abel

And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto Jehovah. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And Jehovah had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and he countenance fell. And Jehovah said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shall it not be lifted up? and if thou doest not well, sin coucheth at the door: and unto thee shall be its desire, but do thou rule over it (Gen. 4:4-7 ASV).

A brief account is given of the sacrifices offered unto Jehovah by the first brothers, Cain and Abel. Details are not given regarding any instruction God gave to these brothers in reference to their sacrifices. However, sufficient evidence is given to determine the contrast in their worship to God. One was accepted and the other rejected. It is pro-per to conclude that the same requirements were given to both of them alike.

Cain brought the “fruit” of the ground for an offering to Jehovah. That outward gift bespeaks of the inward attitude that offered it. God was displeased with Cain’s sacrifice because it was not by faith (Heb. 11:4). The first murder was provoked by attitudes in worship (Gen. 4:3-8). Abel offered the “firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof” as an offering to Jehovah. He brought the first and best of his flock. Abel offered his sacrifice by faith, and he obtained witness from God that he was righteous (Heb. 11:4; Matt. 23:35; 1 Jn. 3:12). Faith comes from hearing God’s word (Rom. 10:17). Abel’s sacrifice cost him his life because his brother was angered that God did not accept his sacrifice.

What Is Worship?

Worship is an expression of man to his Creator or to some god for adoration, thanksgiving and praise. When man feels gratitude and reverence for his Maker, he seeks some way to express that unto God.

The Greek authorities define the words which are translated “worship” to mean: to make obeisance, do reverence to; to revere, stressing the feeling of awe or devotion; an act of homage or reverence; bowing down to, to honor religiously; to serve, to render religious service or homage; to act piously towards. Henry Thayer says the word for worship is: “to kiss the hand (towards) one, in token of reverence . . . hence in the N.T. by kneeling or prostration to do homage to one or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication” (Thayer 548).

Worship in Spirit and in Truth

Jesus said that those who worship God must worship him in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:24). In spirit is not enough; in truth is not enough. When one feels in his heart the devotion, praise and reverence for another he must find some method of expressing that feeling. Especially is this so if the object of that devotion is God. The question comes, How shall he express what is in his heart? That is what worship “in spirit and in truth” means.

1. In spirit involves the right attitude. Attitude is essential to scriptural worship. True worship springs from a heart of genuine reverence and respect, with a godly life. God rejected ritual worship void of true devotion. The heart and mind of the worshippers must be involved in the worship or it is rejected (1 Cor. 11:27-30).

Worship must be from a heart filled with true devotion, piety and sincerity, and in obedience to the will of God. Cornelius had this good attitude when he sent for Peter (Acts 10:33). Christ was an example of submission to the Father (Matt. 3:15; Phil. 2:5-8; Heb. 5:8). Worship is unscriptural when it is contrary to the will of God.

The heart must possess these qualities to have the right attitude: the love of God (1 Jn. 5:3; 2:15; 4:19). Child-like humility is characteristic of the spirit of worship (Matt. 18:4; Jas. 4:6; Jn. 13:14; Phil. 2:5-8). The attitude of forgiveness is necessary also to worship God (Matt. 18:21,22; 6:14,15; Acts 7:60). The attitude to sacrifice is essential (Rom. 12:1,2). There must be a willing sacrifice offered with joy and in humility (Phil. 2:5-8).

Worship by the doctrines of men. The doctrines of men produce the elements of unacceptable worship. Ignorant worship: when the worshipper neither knows whom to worship, nor how to worship (Jn. 4:22-24; Acts 17:23). Vain worship: empty, profitless, authorized by the doctrines of men (Matt. 15:9; Rom. 1:25). Will worship: worship directed by the will of the worshipper and not the will of God (Col. 2:23). Unauthorized practices (Jn. 4:24). The worship of angels (Col. 2:18; Rev. 19:10; 22:8).

Unrighteous worshippers. All worship from those alienated from God is unacceptable worship. Jesus would not accept worship from devils. Worship and service to God go together (Matt. 4:10; Lk. 4:8; Rom. 1:25). God has never accepted worship from one whose life was not right (Prov. 15:8; Isa. 1:13-15; Amos 5:21-25).

Righteousness is a prerequisite to scriptural worship. True righteousness comes only by obeying the commands of God (Psa. 119:15). The commands of the gospel are righteousness (Rom. 1:16,17). There is a difference between the righteousness of man and the righteousness of God (Rom. 10:1-3). It is the difference between life and death.

“I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, 0 Jerusalem” (Psa. 122:1,2).

Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 3, p. 2
February 4, 1993