The Spirit vs. the Flesh
Lesson 1 | Sabbath, 7 January 2023
FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
- What fruit of the Spirit was found in Abel’s life? By contrast, what fruit of the flesh was notable in the life of Adam and Eve’s firstborn son?
Genesis 4:1, 2 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord. 2And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
Jude 1:11 Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.
Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.
“Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam, were very unlike in character. Abel feared God. Cain cherished rebellious feelings and murmured against God because of the curse pronounced upon Adam and because the ground was cursed for his sin.” –The Story of Redemption, p. 52.
- What was the difference between the offerings of Cain and Abel? What did these offerings reveal?
Genesis 4:3, 4 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. 4And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof.
Proverbs 12:1, 2 Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish. 2A good man obtaineth favour of the Lord: but a man of wicked devices will he condemn.
“Without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin; and they were to show their faith in the blood of Christ as the promised atonement by offering the firstlings of the flock in sacrifice. Besides this, the first fruits of the earth were to be presented before the Lord as a thank offering.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 71.
“Cain brought his offering unto the Lord with murmuring and infidelity in his heart in regard to the promised Sacrifice. He was unwilling to strictly follow the plan of obedience and procure a lamb and offer it with the fruit of the ground. He merely took of the ground and disregarded the requirement of God. God had made known to Adam that without shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin. Cain was not particular to bring even the best of the fruits. Abel advised his brother not to come before the Lord without the blood of sacrifice. Cain, being the eldest, would not listen to his brother. He despised his counsel, and with doubt and murmuring in regard to the necessity of the ceremonial offerings, he presented his offering. But God did not accept it. Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat, as God had commanded; and in full faith of the Messiah to come, and with humble reverence, he presented the offering.” –The Story of Redemption, pp. 52, 53.
3. Why can God not accept partial obedience? What happened to Cain when he saw that Abel’s offering was accepted while his was not?
Genesis 4:4, 5 And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. 5And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
Philippians 2:14, 15 Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.
James 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
“God had respect unto his offering. A light flashes from heaven and consumes the offering of Abel. Cain sees no manifestation that his is accepted. He is angry with the Lord and with his brother. God condescends to send an angel to Cain to converse with him.” –The Story of Redemption, p. 53.
“Cain came before God with murmuring and infidelity in his heart in regard to the promised sacrifice and the necessity of the sacrificial offerings. His gift expressed no penitence for sin. He felt, as many now feel, that it would be an acknowledgment of weakness to follow the exact plan marked out by God, of trusting his salvation wholly to the atonement of the promised Saviour. He chose the course of self-dependence. He would come in his own merits. He would not bring the lamb, and mingle its blood with his offering, but would present his fruits, the products of his labor. He presented his offering as a favor done to God, through which he expected to secure the divine approval. Cain obeyed in building an altar, obeyed in bringing a sacrifice; but he rendered only a partial obedience. The essential part, the recognition of the need of a Redeemer, was left out…. But instead of acknowledging his sin, Cain continued to complain of the injustice of God and to cherish jealousy and hatred of Abel. He angrily reproached his brother, and attempted to draw him into controversy concerning God’s dealings with them. In meekness, yet fearlessly and firmly, Abel defended the justice and goodness of God.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 72, 74.
4. Genesis 4:6-8 And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 7If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. 8And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
1 John 3:12 Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.
“But even after being thus faithfully instructed, Cain did not repent. Instead of censuring and abhorring himself for his unbelief, he still complains of the injustice and partiality of God. And in his jealousy and hatred he contends with Abel and reproaches him. Abel meekly points out his brother’s error and shows him that the wrong is in himself. But Cain hates his brother from the moment that God manifests to him the tokens of His acceptance. His brother Abel seeks to appease his wrath by contending for the compassion of God in saving the lives of their parents when He might have brought upon them immediate death. He tells Cain that God loves them, or He would not have given His Son, innocent and holy, to suffer the wrath which man, by his disobedience, deserves to suffer.” –The Story of Redemption, p. 53.
“The class of worshipers who follow the example of Cain includes by far the greater portion of the world; for nearly every false religion has been based on the same principle–that man can depend upon his own efforts for salvation. It is claimed by some that the human race is in need, not of redemption, but of development–that it can refine, elevate, and regenerate itself. As Cain thought to secure the divine favor by an offering that lacked the blood of a sacrifice, so do these expect to exalt humanity to the divine standard, independent of the atonement…. The murder of Abel was the first example of the enmity that God had declared would exist between the serpent and the seed of the woman–between Satan and his subjects and Christ and His followers. Through man’s sin, Satan had gained control of the human race, but Christ would enable them to cast off his yoke. Whenever, through faith in the Lamb of God, a soul renounces the service of sin, Satan’s wrath is kindled. The holy life of Abel testified against Satan’s claim that it is impossible for man to keep God’s law.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 73, 77.
5. What does it mean to be our brothers’ keepers? What noble example did Abel set for all future generations?
Genesis 4:9, 10 And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper? 10And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.
Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
“Brethren and sisters in the faith, does the question arise in your hearts, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ If you claim to be children of God, you are your brother’s keeper. The Lord holds the church responsible for the souls of those whom they might be the means of saving.” –Historical Sketches of the Foreign Missions of the Seventh-day Adventists, p. 291.
“Again the Lord said to Cain, ‘What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground.’ God had given Cain an opportunity to confess his sin. He had had time to reflect. He knew the enormity of the deed he had done, and of the falsehood he had uttered to conceal it; but he was rebellious still, and sentence was no longer deferred.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 77.
- Why did God not destroy Cain immediately? How did Cain consider God’s decision?
Genesis 4:11-16 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand; 12When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.13And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. 15And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him. 16And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.
Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.
“The divine voice that had been heard in entreaty and admonition pronounced the terrible words: ‘And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand. When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.’
“Notwithstanding that Cain had by his crimes merited the sentence of death, a merciful Creator still spared his life, and granted him opportunity for repentance. But Cain lived only to harden his heart, to encourage rebellion against the divine authority, and to become the head of a line of bold, abandoned sinners. This one apostate, led on by Satan, became a tempter to others; and his example and influence exerted their demoralizing power, until the earth became so corrupt and filled with violence as to call for its destruction.
“In sparing the life of the first murderer, God presented before the whole universe a lesson bearing upon the great controversy. The dark history of Cain and his descendants was an illustration of what would have been the result of permitting the sinner to live on forever, to carry out his rebellion against God. The forbearance of God only rendered the wicked more bold and defiant in their iniquity.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 77, 78.
- At present, who and what impels men to commit evil against the children of God?
Revelation 12:11, 9 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death…. 9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
Romans 7:5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
“So in all ages the wicked have hated those who were better than themselves. Abel’s life of obedience and unswerving faith was to Cain a perpetual reproof…. The brighter the heavenly light that is reflected from the character of God’s faithful servants, the more clearly the sins of the ungodly are revealed, and the more determined will be their efforts to destroy those who disturb their peace.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 74.
“When Cain, moved by the spirit of the wicked one, saw that he could not control Abel, he was so enraged that he destroyed his life. And wherever there are any who will stand in vindication of the righteousness of the law of God, the same spirit will be manifested against them. It is the spirit that through all the ages has set up the stake and kindled the burning pile for the disciples of Christ. But the cruelties heaped upon the follower of Jesus are instigated by Satan and his hosts because they cannot force him to submit to their control. It is the rage of a vanquished foe. Every martyr of Jesus has died a conqueror. Says the prophet, ‘They overcame him [“that old serpent, called the devil, and Satan”] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.’ Revelation 12:11, 9.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 77.
FOR ADDITIONAL STUDY
“God invites us to come to Him with our burden of guilt and our heart sorrows. Sin fills us with fear of God. When we have sinned we try to hide ourselves from Him. But whatever our sin, God bids us come unto Him through Jesus Christ. It is only by taking our sins to God that we can be freed from them. Cain, under the rebuke of God, acknowledged his guilt in killing Abel, but he fled away from God, as if he could thus escape from his sin. Had he fled to God with his burden of guilt he would have been forgiven. The prodigal son, realizing his guilt and wretchedness, said, ‘I will arise and go to my father.’ Luke 15:18. He confessed his sin and was taken back to his father’s heart.” –That I May Know Him, p. 260.