By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: In Genesis 4.2-7, was Cain’s offering rejected because it way not authorized or because it was a mediocre offering, while Abel’s was his best? Did not God accept offerings of the fruit of the ground (Lev. 2, Deut. 26. 1-11)?
Reply: It is true that under the law of Moses, God accepted offerings of the fruit of the ground such as meal offerings (Lev. 2) and the first fruits of the ground (Deut. 26:1-11).
Cain’s offering (the fruit of the ground) was not offered by faith, thus it was unauthorized. It is evident that God had instructed Cain and Abel as to the kind of offering they were to make. We are told in Hebrews 11:4, “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” We learn from Romans 10:17, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Whatever is acceptable to God must be by faith; that is, it must be authorized by the word of God by command, example or necessary inference (implication). God’s word, then, should be the authority for all that we do. If a practice is not authorized by the Bible, it cannot be an item of faith. Since it is not an item of faith, it is therefore prohibited.
Mechanical instruments of music are not authorized in the worship of God. We are told to sing; therefore, vocal music is authorize4by the Scriptures (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; etc.). We are instructed as to the kind of music we are to use in worship, which is singing. The New Testament is silent upon the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship, thus they are unauthorized and prohibited. Furthermore, they were not introduced into worship until centuries after the New Testament was written.
Numerous examples can be given of practices which are not authorized by the Scriptures. The reason is: they are not by faith. Sprinkling and pouring instead of baptism (immersion) are not by faith because there is no command or mention of their practice in the New Testament. There is one baptism (Eph. 4:5); it is a burial in water (Acts 8:38,39; Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12) and it is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). God has taught us his will about the act of baptism, so when we submit to it we do so by faith (Rom. 10:17).
The only way that Abel could have offered his sacrifice by faith was to have done so according to God’s will (his instructions). This is the only way that we live by faith today. The offering of Abel was “more excellent” than Cain’s, not because it was of greater value materially, but because it was offered by faith. Cain did not follow God’s instructions; therefore, his offering was not by faith. Abel obeyed God; therefore, his offering was by faith. This is why Abel’s offering was acceptable to God and Cain’s was not.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 13, p. 397
July 2, 1987