WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LX) 10/05/21

3:12 We are not to be like Cain, who belonged to Satan and killed his brother. Why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing wrong, he knew very well that his brother’s life was better than his.

We see that Cain’s sinful tendencies originated from Satan; they developed out of his lack of spiritual relationship with God. So, the source of Cain’s behavior is the devil, but Cain did not become an offspring of the devil because he murdered his brother. He killed his brother because he was part of the devil’s viper brood. Cain’s murderous attitude also came out of his sense of failure before the Lord. He viewed Abel as a rival in spiritual matters. As Cain crawled out of Satan’s nest, he demonstrated that relationship by his act of rejecting God’s system of payment for sin – a blood sacrifice – and sacrificed his brother. Cain was a physical but not a spiritual brother to Abel. They came from two different spiritual origins. The principle is this: actions always arise out of either sin or holiness, either from Satan or God.

So, now we know the origin of spiritual rebellion? It does not begin in humans. Love springs from God, and hate originates in the devil. If you are in the grip of hatred, it has a satanic source. Just as Satan entered the heart of Judas at the institution of the Lord’s Supper to betray Jesus, [1] so Satan enters the heart when Christians are hated. Satan convinced Ananias and Sapphira, his wife, two Christians, to lie and cheat.[2] It all begins when a person’s purpose is to undermine the things of God. As such, the degenerate person remains under the influence of Satan.

It was everyone’s development in life before they became Christians. They rejected salvation by grace. Most non-Christians do not have a clue that this is the case with them.[3] It is why non-Christians hate the confidence and conviction of believers who know where they stand with God. They despise the Grace concept because it violates their self-trust. Non-Christians often love religion and morality, but their faith and moral code are without the grace of the Anointed One. Therefore, they hold great disdain and contempt for the Gospel message. A skunk by any other name is still a skunk. Anyone can squirt perfume on it from now until doomsday, but it will still smell. No fragrance of religion or morality will help non-Christians find acceptance with God, no matter what they call themselves.

Pride often seeks to diminish those to whom they compare themselves. Others often make them feel small, so they attempt to cut them down a notch or two. Unfortunately, just as Abel threatened Cain, Christians also try to intimidate other Christians they deem more able, talented, or gifted than they are. So, ask yourself, does your heart burn in anger toward another Christian? You cannot stand them. Why don’t you call it what it is? Hatred. Hatred originated in the devil. May God draw our hearts toward Him and His love.

Cain did not kill his brother because he was a terrible person. He killed him out of spite because God rejected his offering. Abel’s lamb was a sacrifice of grace, while Cain’s fruit and grain was an offering of works. Cain hated the grace concept. Adam and Eve’s firstborn did more than murder his brother – he slaughtered him. The Greek often uses the word “murder” for ritualistic slayings. It can mean “to cut the throat.” Sometimes the Greek uses this term for slaughtering a goat. It is a gruesome picture of Cain holding Abel’s head back to cut his throat and jugular vein. In other words, Cain butchered his brother. It is a violent term for putting to death by violence. It is a solid term for fratricide.[4]

It was as though Cain was saying to God in effect, “You wanted a blood sacrifice, didn’t you?  I gave you one – I shed the blood of my brother as a ritual sacrifice. So, how do you like your bloody sacrifice now?” Cain hated God’s system of blood sacrifice because it was the foundation for salvation by grace. He wanted to bring the work of his hands, the fruit of the field, to merit salvation. He believed in salvation by personal merit and good works.

The word “because” in verse twelve means “on account of.” It is the reason Cain killed Abel. A wicked person will naturally dislike an individual who claims they are right in God’s eyes. That’s why Cain despised Abel’s relationship with God. He detested Abel’s method of salvation by blood and, therefore, by grace. As such, Abel’s sacrifice by grace stood in stark contrast to Cain’s offering by the work of his hands.

Cain’s murder of Abel proved the true family to which he belonged. Unfortunately, he was under the control of Satan rather than God. The motive behind Cain’s murder was astonishing. He hated his brother’s honest approach to God! He could not stand the comparison between himself and his brother’s path to God. It forced him into doing someone unimaginable. It is because Cain disliked what Abel represented. Abel’s sacrifice symbolized grace. Cain’s offering represented works. Cain believed that a person could work their way into acceptance with God by merit. These two brothers came from the same physical family and environment, but ended in two different outcomes.

Therefore, let’s look at Cain as an illustration of John’s enemies who brought malicious division into the assembly of believers – they belonged to the evil one. They attacked genuine believers because they were committed to salvation by faith instead of works by members of Satan’s brood. It was the same as the crowd that attacked Jesus. Jesus told those religious leaders’ their father[5] was the devil.[6] So remember, Christians will sometimes be required to pay the price for taking a stand on Grace instead of works. The problem is, Grace flies in the face of human achievement and self-help. People want to come to God their way, not God’s way, “I’ll find God my way; I don’t need any help.” The world loves religion but hates Grace.[7]

COMMENTARY

Bede the Venerable (672-735 AD) says that by using the word “world,” John means those who love the world’s corrupt system. It is hardly surprising that those who love the world will be incapable of loving a brother or sister who separated themselves from the world and is now concerned with acquiring heavenly things. Religion is an abomination to the sinner, as Scripture testifies.[8]

George Swinnock (1627-1673) states that we may say with King David, “They hated me for no reason.”[9] The world has no just cause to hate and curse the people of God. However, there is a reason for all their rage and anger, hostility and cruelty against the saints; and that is because they are God’s children. Why did Cain drench his hands in his brother’s blood? Because his offering was wrong and his brother’s sacrifice was right.[10] Then Swinnock has this thought to share: “Light is burdensome and grievous to owls and bats and all birds of the night; the light of a saint’s holiness is offensive to sinners that are accustomed to deeds done in darkness; thus, the greater the light, the more painful to their sore eyes. Swine cannot endure sweet odors. Those that are unclean, and delight to wallow in the mire of vice, hate the fragrant perfumes of grace. The distinctive aroma of spikenard is poisonous to them. In fact, horse-flies are killed with ointments.”[11]

Thomas Scott (1747-1821) concludes that we should never consider those who ignore God’s grace as true Christians. Instead, associate them with Cain, a professed God worshiper. Nevertheless, he showed himself to belong to the nest of “that wicked one,” the devil, by envying, hating, and murdering his brother. But the question is, what caused Cain to commit this atrocious murder? What provoked him? What injury had he received? None at all. He simply hated God’s divine image he saw in Abel and his humility, faith, and devotion. As such, Cain envied him and was angry even with God, who accepted his brother’s sacrifice in preference to his. He was so enraged that he murdered him “because his works were unacceptable, and his brothers accepted.”[12]

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) points out that the Apostle John does not state Cain’s motive for killing his brother precisely as recorded in Genesis. According to Torah, it was envy because Abel had the better offering. However, John emphasizes the core problem in context with what he has been saying about the children of God and the devil’s brood. That is: evil persecutes good out of envy over God’s blessings. Therefore, in John’s mind, Cain and Abel are seen as types of those who love their fellow man and those who have no time for them. But more specifically, why the world hates believers are because of the way God showers them with His goodness.[13]

John J. Lias (1834-1923) takes issue with the translations of the opening line. The KJV has, “Not as Cain, who was of [that] wicked one,” and the NASB “Not as Cain, [who] was of the evil one,” and NIV “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one.” Lias prefers, “We are not as Cain, who was of the evil one.” I like the ERV that renders it, “Don’t be like Cain. He belonged to the Evil One.” Lias believes that we need a necessary break between warning who not to be and then why. The Apostle John gives his number one objection to being like Cain – he was the first murderer. But it is more than making Cain an example of wicked conduct; it emphasizes sinful tendencies in the human heart and mind.[14]


[1] Luke 22:3

[2] Acts of the Apostles 5:3

[3] See Ephesians 2:1-3

[4] Fratricide is the killing of one’s brother or sister

[5] Father, not in the biological or spiritual sense, but metaphorically as the “originator or author.” See Thayer’s Greek Lexicon on John 8:44; Strong’s GK3962

[6] John 8:44; 13:2, 27

[7] Hebrews 11:4

[8] Bede the Venerable, Ancient Christian Commentary, Vol. XI, Bray, G. (Ed.), James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, p. 202.

[9] Psalm 69:4; cf. John 15:26

[10] 1 John 3:12

[11] The Works of George Swinnock: Vol. 4, The Pastor’s Farewell, pp. 73-74

[12] Scott, Thomas, The Holy Bible with Explanatory Notes, vol. 5, p. 698

[13] Rothe, Richard, The Expository Times, May 1893, p. 355

[14] Lias, John J., The First Epistle of St. John with Exposition, op. cit., pp. 251-254

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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