Total Depravity of Man

By studying Cain in this chapter we get a clearer picture of what happened to mankind when Adam disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit, thus bringing mankind under the law of sin and death. 

Cain, we are told, was of that wicked one and slew his brother.  There are not many people who are named in the scriptures that we can say without any doubt are not children of God and were not elected by God before the foundation of the world.  One, of course, is Esau, of whom we read in Romans chapter 9 that God hated.  Cain is another.  There are many characteristics of Cain presented to us in Genesis chapter 4.  The characteristics are typical of the natural man.  Man is by nature totally depraved.  Some of these characteristics presented in Genesis chapter 4 are as follows:

    1.  Cain was wroth with God when God did not respect his offering.  This tells us that he was full of pride and that he did not respect God as the Great Creator.  It also tells us that Cain believed God was wrong in not praising Cain for his offering.  Certainly, this is the height of arrogance.

    2.  Cain's hatred of God and belief that God was wrong carried over unto hatred for anything that God would approve.  This led to his slaying his brother Abel, whose offering God respected.  Thus, we see that wicked fallen depraved man will commit murder so long as he believes he can get away with it.  Moreover, fallen man will oppose any godliness on behalf of God's people.

    3.  Next, Cain did not think God would see his evil deeds and he denied even knowing the whereabouts of his brother Abel.  Thus, Cain denied the attributes of God and lied to God, thinking God could not have the ability to know what he had done.

    4.  Further, Cain's selfishness was manifest when he made the statement: "am I my brother's keeper?"  Everything Cain did was done out of a selfish motive.  This is characteristic of the total depravity of man.

    5.  When caught in his evil deed, Cain spoke of the unfairness of God's punishment: "My punishment is greater than I can bear."  Fallen man will continually harp on what they say is God's unfairness.

    6.  Cain went out from the presence of the Lord.  Man does not like to retain God in his knowledge and will separate himself, if possible, from even the mention of God unless it is in the form of a curse or blasphemy against God.

    7.  Cain's selfish self-promotion was manifest in his naming of the city he built after the name of his first-born son. 

In summary all of Cain's actions were selfish and prideful.  This is typical of man in his natural state.  It is also typical of the elect before they are born of the Spirit.

Moreover, we see the fallen nature of man manifest in the great-great-great-grandson of Enoch when he mocked God saying, "Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt.  If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold."

God as a respecter of persons and not a respecter of persons

Gen. 4:3 "And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. 4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: 5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect."

Several times in the scriptures we read where God is not a respecter of persons: II Chr. 19:6, 7; Rom. 2:6-11; Acts 10:34; Eph. 6:5-9; and Col. 3:18-25.  Yet in our subject passage above we read that God had respect unto Abel, but he had not respect unto Cain.  How can God be both a respecter of persons and at the same time be no respecter of persons?  Do the scriptures contradict themselves?  The scriptures never contradict themselves. 

We are told in 2 Tim. 2:15 "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."  The truth is there are ways in which God is no respecter of persons and there is a way in which God is a respecter of persons.  By looking at the verses we quoted in the previous paragraph we can see the ways in which God is no respecter of persons:

    1.  II Chr. 19:6, 7 "And said to the judges, Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment.  Wherefore now let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts."  In judgment God does not respect persons.  God judges righteous judgment and does not favor one over another in judging the guilt or innocence of a person. 

    2.  Rom. 2:6-11 "Who will render to every man according to his deeds:  To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God."  In judgment, God does not favor the Jew over the Gentile or the Gentile over the Jew.  He is no respecter of persons in judgment based on their nationality.

    3.  Acts 10:34, 35 "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him."  This statement by Peter was made because God had revealed it unto him.  Before the Jews thought that God favored them only and that they were all of God's elect children.  They thought, surely, that God did not have a people among the Gentiles.  However, God showed Peter and the Jews that God has a people in all nationalities.

    4.  Eph. 6:5-9 "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.  And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him."  Men treat people different based on their perception of them as being either a master or a servant.  However, God does not respect the master over the servant or the servant over the master.  In this way God is no respecter of persons.

    5.  Col. 3:18-25 "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.  Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.  Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.  Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.  Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.  But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons."  This passage of scripture deals with the relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, and servants and masters.  In all these relationships God does not favor one over the other, but in judgment deals with each in chastisement without respect of persons.  Thus, God does not respect the person of the husband over the wife, or the person of the parent over the child, or the person of the master over the servant, but deals with each in chastisement without respect of persons.

Thus, we can see that God does not favor the Jew over the Gentile in judgment nor does he favor people because they are masters over servants, nor does he favor people because of their gender, nor does he favor people based on their position in the family, nor does he favor people based on their nationality, nor does he favor people because of their social standing or financial position.  In all of these ways God is no respecter of persons. 

Next, we consider how that God is a respecter of persons.  In the following four passages of scripture God is said to be a respecter of persons:

    1.  Ex. 2:23-25 "And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.  And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them."  God favored the children of Israel over the Egyptians because of the covenant that he had made with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  This favoritism was based on the covenant.

    2.  Lev. 26:3-9 "If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.  And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.  And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land.  And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.  And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.  For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you.  The promise of God favoring them was based on the covenant that he had made with them at Mt. Sinai.

    3.  II Kings 13:23 "And the LORD was gracious unto them, and had compassion on them, and had respect unto them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast he them from his presence as yet."  Again we see that God favored Israel over the other nations during this Old Testament economy because of the covenant that he had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  His respect towards them was a covenant respect.

    4.  Ps. 74:18-20 "Remember this, that the enemy hath reproached, O LORD, and that the foolish people have blasphemed thy name.  O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever.  Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty."  The Psalmists calls on the Lord to have respect unto Israel over their enemies by asking the Lord to have respect unto the covenant.  Thus, the Psalmists is calling upon God's covenant respect.

In all four of these passages God has respect unto a people based on a covenant.  Likewise with Cain and Abel God had respect unto Abel and he had not respect unto Cain based on a covenant.  This covenant is set forth for us in Rom. 8:29, 30: "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified."  Also, we read of this covenant in Eph. 1:4-7 "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.  In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace."  God chose Abel in covenant before the foundation of the world, but he did not choose Cain.  Thus, God had respect unto Abel, but he had not respect unto Cain.