In Genesis 4:3-5 we read that God accepted Abel’s blood sacrifice and rejected Cain’s offering of the fruit of the land. In Matthew 7:13-14 the Lord talks about two gates and two roads, the narrow one being the one that leads to life. Would it be too simplistic to say that every religion other than the Christian faith falls into the way of Cain or the wide road, i.e. reaching God through the works of my hands rather than through a blood sacrifice (Calvary)? The other part of my question is whether this approach (simplifying religious beliefs to the two sacrifices or two roads) is helpful in evangelism with people of other religions. Examples would be great.
Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
There is no scripture reference to indicate that Abel’s offering was accepted because it was of blood and Cain’s offering rejected because it was fruit of the land. A person must be accepted first by God before his offering or sacrifice is accepted.
Matthew 7:13 and 14 refers to the way of repentance and forsaking sin through which every sinner must turn to God in order to find salvation. The other path is the path that leads to destruction because it is the path chosen by people who follow their own worldly passions.
The two is not related and cannot be applied to all religious beliefs. For instance, in Hinduism there is no eternal destiny but an endless cycle of birth and rebirth. In Buddhism, the belief is a third path, the middle path. Waiting for our other brothers and sisters in Christ to respond to the question.
Thanks for your insight, @SelieVisa. You mentioned in Hinduism there is no eternal destiny but an endless cycle of birth and rebirth. Though that is not heaven as we think of it, for that individual wouldn’t that cycle in the end “amount” to the same thing? Wouldn’t the incentive in Hinduism be to be reborn into a higher life? Would that make the faithful Hindu live life in a certain way as to attain to that better life in the next cycle?
I am not an expert on this but as far as I know, Hinduism, in fact Buddhism also, believes in karma. Your next life is determined by what you do in this life. Therefore, you try to do better in each life until you finally break off from this cycle and achieve dharma. It is a work based religion that you must try to excel yourself.
Jesus somehow offers a totally different concept. The salvation is freely given by grace through faith. It does not require any work on our part. Jesus made it very clear that the laws are there for us to see our sins and to realize that it is impossible for us to earn it through our own merit. Therefore, it actually sounds easy that we can be saved simply by believing. Then, why in Matthew 7:14 Jesus said, “small is the gate and narrow the road”?
Remember that rich young man that asked Jesus, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He declared that he had kept all the commandments since he was a boy. But when Jesus suggested that he should go and sell everything he have and give to the poor, he went away sad. While some people interpret this as Jesus cares about social justice which of course He does but that is actually not the requirement. Matthew was a tax collector who might be rich, Jesus never commented about sharing the wealth. Jesus knew the young man intended to enter the kingdom based on his own merit. Therefore, in Mark 10:27, Jesus said, “with man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible.” We are saved by faith and faith alone.
Sorry, that still does not answer why it is difficult. Remember how Jesus called his disciples and how they responded. Take Matthew for example, Matthew was sitting at his tax collector’s booth, yet when he was called, “Matthew got up and followed him.” The same as the others, they left their work and followed him. It is not how worthy you are, it is how willing you are to follow him. And, that is the problem with the rich young man, he is trying to get there on his own merit and cannot leave behind his wealth. The gate is small and the road is narrow because we have something in this world that we see as more important than the Lord.
I believe Cain’s offering from the fruit of the land represented the punishment of the sin. Remember in Genesis 3:17-19, God said to Adam that he will suffer through painful toil to produce food to eat. It does represent hard work which is not what the Lord intended at creation. On the other hand, the blood of the lamb is a free gift from the Lord just like the salvation. So, in a way, I think it may have some connection to it.
Hopefully that makes sense to you. Do wish to hear more from the others. Thanks for the interesting question, @ALandis.
Eugenia, I really enjoyed your thoughts and especially the ones regarding Cain’s offering representing the punishment for sin. My question may have been a little unclear, but what I was trying to ask is whether, when I am discussing the faith with those of other persuasions, it is safe to simply say, here are the two ways in which people think they can be “saved”; i.e. there are no other roads but these two and no other sacrifices but these two, and while one works, the other one doesn’t. In searching my own heart, although I love to see people come to Christ and receive eternal life, I cannot say that I’ve been successful at it … hence my question. Of course in the end it is God who does the saving, and some of us are just supposed to plant seeds here and there. Thanks again for your reply @eymyao. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my somewhat convoluted question. The Lord bless!
Thanks, @ALandis. I totally agree with you. Yes, our job is just to plant the seeds. God has His plan. Perhaps someone else will do the harvesting. But, don’t stop trying.
Very good question, @ALandis!
It sounds like one part of your question is whether it’s too simplistic to say that every religion in the history of the world could be reduced to one of two main categories - a religion of faith, such as Abel first demonstrated, or a religion of works, which Cain first demonstrated.
Actually, I think the verses you have cited in Matthew 7:13-14 absolutely justify a dual categorization like that. As others have already noted, even religions with different views of what our ultimate destiny should be still agree that our own best efforts are what we depend on to achieve it.
All the religions invented by men depend upon men’s work. The religion revealed by God depends upon His work.
The other part of your question was whether this observation might be useful in evangelization. Well, since Jesus spoke Matthew 7 in what certainly appears to be an evangelistic context, I cannot see that it would hurt. Of course, you would also want to be prepared for the surrounding conversation - but yes, that might be a very helpful way to give someone a bird’s eye view of how the gospel of Christ is so different from all the religious inventions of men.
As for Abel’s religion being one based upon a sacrifice involving blood as opposed to Cain’s which represented what he had earned by his own labor, I do believe that is also an important element distinguishing these two categories.
Although blood is not explicitly mentioned in the Genesis story, it is certainly implied in both Genesis 3:21 and Genesis 4:3-4. But later, it is explicitly made an issue in Leviticus 17:11, Hebrews 9:22, I John 1:7 and others.
Why is the blood so important? It points to the satisfaction of wrath taken out on the Substitute. Christ did not die peacefully in His sleep for our sins. He died at the hands of enraged sinners whose vehemence against God had no bounds.
But the very interesting thing is that they were unwittingly executing this penalty against God the Son on behalf of God the Father!
Now think about that for a moment. When God wanted to unleash the fulness of His wrath upon the Sin Bearer, what could He find in this fallen universe that would be severe enough to vent His infinite rage? An asteroid? A volcano? Fire from heaven?
Oh, no - He found something far worse! The only thing in this world that was violent enough to reflect the infinite wrath of God against sinners was the infinite wrath of sinners against God! It is the downside of His image in a fallen race.
As they unleashed all the torments of hell against Christ, they were unwittingly fulfilling God’s plan that He should indeed suffer the torments of hell for mankind. The rage of sinners against the Son of God was in perfect measure to the rage of God against sin - they are both infinite!
When they’d crucified Jesus, was their wrath against God finally satisfied? Oh, no - they started on His disciples. When the disciples were all gone, was their rage against God satisfied then? Oh, no - the Roman persecutions were just beginning. And when those were done, the world’s rage against God and His people continued with jihads, Inquisitions, communist purges - and will continue until Great Babylon is drunken with the blood of the saints at the end (Revelation 17:6). And for all eternity, sinners in hell will rage on against God.
So where can infinite wrath ever end? At the foot of the cross where Jesus cried, It is finished. There the infinite wrath of God is satisfied, and there the infinite wrath of the repentant sinner can find peace.
I hope this will help you.
To add some to what has already been said, I could say that Jesus is the only way. This maybe sounds obvious or narrow but is what Jesus himself said. I like something Abdu Murray says: “Christianism is the most exclusive and inclusive religion”. What he meant by that is that Christianity claims that you only can be saved through Jesus, but this invitation is open for every single person in the world.
Also, Ravi used to say that religions are superficially the same but deeply different and not vice versa as many say or think. This is because every religion has different answers for the most important questions about this life and the afterlife.
In the case of Hinduism or Buddhism, they don’t have heaven in mind. Their final goal is not to incarnate in a better life but to end with this cycle when they finally unite themselves with the great supreme spirit, and by doing that, their individuality will no longer exist. We as Christians believe that God loves us individually, and when He finally ends the suffering and creates new heavens and new earth we will live with Him as individual persons.
Maybe this book would be useful:
Thank you, @jlyons. This was more than what I anticipated, and I rejoiced reading it. Thank you for the list of verses. I have a good grasp of theology but not references. I have two questions for you, though. In regard to calvary, I’ve always been taught that God’s wrath began with the hours of darkness where no man could do or see anything. Are you saying here that His wrath was only dispensed through the wicked actions of godless men? The other question is regarding hell. If sinners rage against God for an eternity in hell, then how can we say that God made an end of sin? I do not disagree with what you’ve said, but I’ve always wondered about that.
Thank you @Renzo.DG and especially for the clarification on Hinduism. Can we say then that a faithful Hindu’s final goal is to be consumed by this great Supreme spirit? I like the quote from Abdu Murray btw. It is so true.
Good follow up questions, @ALandis - and very thought provoking!
I wouldn’t say that God’s wrath was only dispensed through the wickedness of men. Obviously, there were disturbing displays in the earthquake and the sinister darkness that men had no control over. And I do believe that all the unseen forces of hell were concentrated in an orgy of celebration around the cross in what they must have considered their moment of triumph. And, of course, when Christ experienced the climactic moment of being forsaken of the Father, that is something I’ve long believed was at the very core of what makes hell so hellish.
But the primary movers of what happened in the physical world were the enemies of Christ who were blinded by their rage against Him, and through Him, against the Father they pretended to honor.
As for when God’s wrath began - well, I couldn’t be dogmatic about it, but I’ve long supposed that if the shedding of blood is what makes atonement for our sin, then perhaps it was when He first began sweating drops of blood in the garden. He was so physically impacted by the agony that an angel was sent to strengthen Him through it (Luke 22:43).
As for God making an end of sin (Daniel 9:24), I don’t think that means that the evil spirits of men and angels will no longer hate God - but rather that God has made a provision whereby His wrath against the sins of each sinner can be satisfied - and the sinner’s long war against God can find a place of surrender and peace - at the cross. Of course, the sinner does have to kneel to God there before that can happen - but God has provided a place where it can happen.
I hope this will address what you were wondering about.
Thanks, @jlyons, always enjoy reading your post, very in-depth analysis and great biblical explanation. So true, today, we can see how the sinners rage on against God more than ever.
@ALandis, I think when you try to discuss the faith with people of other faith. In addition to explaining the difference, it is always good to emphasize on the grace of God. I think that is one thing missing in most of the other religions. I always like to talk about the cross and the resurrection and what they represent. Perhaps you can add that to your storyline.
I have to confess I probably did not fully grasp the center of your question. Hope this is helpful. But, either way, so happy to see the further discussion you have generated here. Thanks. Wonderful to learn together.
Thank you, Eugenia!! Yes, it is wonderful to learn together. I appreciate your part in this discussion @eymyao.