A Scriptural Study Newsletter edited by Elder Vernon Johnson

How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

 

 

 

Cain Knew Better.

            The scriptures are not always written in straight-forward language; after all, it’s the pleasure of the Lord to hide a matter. Some one once suggested every scripture contains more than 3 layers.  We may not have enough time in this life to prove that, but we do know for certain the words authored by the Lord are to be rightly divided, and we are to find “here a little, there a little, line upon line…”

[It is] the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings [is] to search out a matter.

            Sometimes we can see two solid pillars of truth in what has been written for our learning.  With study, we can carefully bridge between the two if the planks we use are strong, and scriptural.  There is a great gap in the continuing story of original sin. Adam falls silent. In fact, little is said of him after he is expelled from the garden.  The story jumps to the birth of his first two sons, born sometime after Adam and Eve took up their second residence.

            Scripture tells us nothing of Cain and Abel except their order of birth and that they were given to different professions.  Gen 4:1 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.   4:2 And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 

            And then the story of the offerings:  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.   4:4 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:   4:5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.  We are quick to point out the obvious in verses four and five, that is, the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering, but not unto Cain and his offering.  Many will conclude the difference is the result of God’s election.  But that’s not the key lesson to be taken away from this story.  We always need to read God’s word carefully.  A strong case can be made that Abel is elect and Cain was not, we ought not to head to before the foundation of the world immediately when examining these verses.

            Some will argue God didn’t respect the offering because it was from Cain, whom the scripture says, he did not respect.  We’ve heard it said Cain was lazy and brought only that which he plucked from the ground.  Others say God didn’t respect Cain’s offering because the ground from which it came was cursed, but there’s more going on here.  In order for these two young men to bring sacrifices to God, someone had to instruct them. They didn’t just wake up one day and decide this would be something interesting.  We can safely conclude their temperaments were as different as their choice of livelihood.  The timing of offering was not coincidental.  They had been taught.

           The Lord himself might have taught them, but in all likelihood it was our silent Adam.  We know there’s awareness involved because of the timing of the sacrifice.  Cain knew when to bring it to God.  Abel knew when to bring it as well.  Someone had trained or instructed these young men on when to bring forth a sacrifice, and what to bring.  Abel brought the firstlings of the flock and the fat thereof.  There had to be an animal death involved: a blood sacrifice.  God had respect unto Abel and unto his offering.  His sacrifice was accepted.  If Cain had brought the same type of sacrifice – the firstling of the flock and the fat thereof, he too would have been accepted. That’s a bold statement many will take immediate issue with, for elsewhere the scripture calls Cain – that evil one. 

            So how do we know that if Cain had made a blood sacrifice similar to Abel’s he would have been accepted?  God said so.  Gen 4:6 And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?   Gen 4:7 If 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.  If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?  How is it one is accepted?  We have to look to the sample given us.  Abel’s offering was accepted, therefore, he did well (was obedient) and therefore he himself was accepted. 

            Cain had been instructed also, to take the firstlings of the flock and the fat thereof and present it to the Lord on a particular day.  Abel was obedient.  Cain was not.  In fact, we have to conclude Cain was knowingly disobedient.  Not only did he refuse to take a lamb, (it’s no stretch to make the sacrifice a lamb) he deliberately took fruit from the ground that God had cursed as an affront to the Lord.  He offered him cursed goods in a mocking manner.

            Cain is the first human ever born to earthly parents.  He is the first to receive Adam’s fallen nature and the first ever to inherit total depravity. In this sacrifice Cain shows off his inherited Adamic sin.  Cain is a type of the unrepentant enemy of God – us – before the new birth.  Abel is our type of life after the new birth.  Cain, our old human nature, versus Abel, the God-loving spirit imparted to us, a picture of our dual nature and struggle.

            Cain’s sinful nature allowed jealousy to enter the picture and he became the first to take a physical human life:  Gen 4:8 And 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. 

 9 And the LORD said unto Cain, Where [is] Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: [Am] I my brother's keeper?  10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground. 

            Cain in further defiance gives God a blood sacrifice in his brother.  Would God have had respect unto Cain and his offering had he been obedient?  The scriptures indicate he would.  But mocking God has a price – and in this case, reaping what one has sown, literally. Cain’s mocking curse backfires.  Gen 4:11 And now [art] thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand;  12 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.  Cursed from the earth.  The very cursed earth where you Cain obtained his cursed offering.  No more will you easily produce yield you could use to mock God.  As a tiller of the ground, even your livelihood shall be against you.  We always say you reap in the same garden you sow.

            Yet Abel’s obedience follows him to this day:   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.

            Cain’s flaunting of God was Satan’s second attempt on mankind. Throw the curse back into the face of God, and slay the righteous servant.  1Jo 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.

            Sometimes we get so excited when we see something that supports our view we run ahead before laying the planks before the two pillars.  Cain’s works – the only ones we have recorded in scripture, are contrasted with Abel’s.  Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.  That sentence alone tells us it’s not the murder of Abel that labels Cain as evil. It’s the comparison – bringing forth a sacrifice blatantly abhorrent to the Lord. 

            He knew better.  He had received the same instruction as his brother, for he knew the timing, and it doesn’t make sense that someone would have taught him the day of the sacrifice and not the proper accepted sacrifice.

            It would be years before the law of sacrifice would be penned down and man would learn about blessings in obedience, and being cursed in disobedience.  God didn’t give us a day by day account of the early life of Cain and Abel; we just get a few simple sentences in Genesis that speak volumes to us about obeying God, true sacrifice, the consequences of Adam’s sin and depravity, jealousy, strife, murder, blood speaking, and sin having dominion in our lives. 

Cain knew better.  And usually, although we are slow to admit it, so do we. 

Bro. Royce Ellis


“Deacons- Their Wages

Last time we tried to make a distinction between that terms “qualifications” verses the “qualities” of a deacon. We came to understand that the scriptures revel to us that it is the “qualities” spiritual man and not the “qualifications” of a man that we are to seek out in persons that we are to be placed in the office of a deacon. And with this thought, hopefully still in our minds let’s continue to move forward with the consideration of exactly what “wages of a deacon are.” We notice that one of the first deacon’s in Acts chapter six; and the first one mentioned is a man named Stephen, whose name means “crown,” he was one of the seven who served the church at Jerusalem. After he was chosen and ordained in Acts chapter six, it was evident that the “qualities” that God had blessed him with made him well “qualified” to fill his office. And it was these “qualities” that God had given him that brought him to a death by which he was blessed to be able to give God so much glory. We find him standing and speaking to a group the Sadducees and Pharisees who found themselves utterly helpless before the force of his witness and the logic of his reasoning. He was well grounded being thoroughly acquainted with the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, in which the “council” of Jews who were also well versed, and this was in and of itself a disconcerting thing for them. Because the more that he successfully met each one of their arguments against the truth, the more their anger grew against him. Finally Stephen was brought before the Sanhedrin where he preached one of the most fully recorded sermons in the New Testament.

Finally it was their madness that brought them to become a murderous mob rushing forth to take his life. For when his enemies could do nothing with his arguments or his preaching, they took matters into their own hands. And contrary to both Roman and Jewish law, they seized Stephen and without awaiting a sentence against him, he was taken as a blasphemer and stoned to death. This beloved and faithful deacon died as he had lived, as a witness to the Christ whom he had served. And with his last breath he shouts with triumph, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59), and with mercy in his words he said, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (Acts 7:60).

When we consider what happened to our Brother Stephen, does it seem to us that it worth while to serve as a deacon? This is exactly the kind of self examination that is required that the man of God who is called to be a deacon. He must be mindful that others have given their lives for their faith in Jesus; there is an endless list of martyrs whose blood was shed for the cause of Christ and His dear Kingdom.

When we consider the thought of the wages for a deacon it is always hard to even think about rewards, and this is because we all must remember that we are debtors to grace. Each one of us, like the Apostle Paul, seeing ourselves again and again as being “the chief of sinners,” especially when we consider the price that Christ paid to redeem us from our many sins. The rewards or “wages” that we receive are all determined by the grace of God. For us, even death is a profit, for we know that “to die is gain.” There can be no doubt that the purpose of all the promises of God serve to strengthen our faith and to urge us onward and upward to our fullest effort, as well as to encourage us in the midst of our struggles.

For the deacon, hard work is what is called for, their consecration is challenged, and their sacrifice is expected; but the rewards or “wages” far outweigh the effort. What “wages” does the deacon receive? In the world’s riches, there isn’t enough gold and silver that could ever pay for such faithfulness and devotion. But in the blessings of God, untold riches of grace are ever with such a one of these faithful servants of Christ.

Stephen’s faithful witness is found an end in his martyrdom. Philip, another of the seven is recorded to have served for over twenty years, and yet we understand that he was martyred at Tralles in Asia Minor. Prochorus was ordained as an elder and became the bishop (or pastor) at Philippi. And he is also believed to have been martyred at Antioch. And Parmenas, tradition says, was martyred at Philippi during the reign of Trajan.

The scriptures tell us that Nicolas was a proselyte of Antioch, which suggests that the other six were probably Jews by birth. It is said that he became the founder of the Nicolaitanes, a heretical sect in the churches of the first century which is condemned by Jesus in Revelation 2:6 and 15. But bear in mind that this is tradition, not fact. It is entirely possible that the opinions of this sect did not come directly from his preaching. But it is possible that all of these seven men, godly, dedicated, and deeply spiritual deacons, came at last to a martyr’s death. And the question that is before us is “was their deacon’s office worth such a high price?”

How much value is there in the fact that they were enabled by the Holy Ghost to meet their hour victoriously? Is it fair to say that the man who serves God faithfully as a deacon may expect, (as I’m sure that these brethren did,) that God will provide for them an extra degree of victorious grace in the trials that will come to them and as an extra joy a crown of glory? And is it not this very same grace which He gives to us today?  I believe so!

    The scriptures reveal that the results of the election and ordination of the seven had an almost immediate result. It is written that “The word of God increased.” I believe that it safe to say that the “word of God increased” both “quantitatively” and “qualitatively;” “quantitatively” in that there was a greater number of witnesses added to the church, and “qualitatively” as in the effectiveness of the pastor’s ministry, and all of this in keeping with the will of God concerning how that we too are to do things in the church today.

 Deacons who have a desire to make their pastor a more able preacher, preaching with power and the demonstration of the spirit, have an opportunity to; by and through the grace and guidance of the Holy Ghost, to realize that as the result. According to the New Testament pattern, nothing more can be done which would have the result of the  multiple blessings of Christ, than to have good and faithful deacons working at the task assigned to them by the church.

The number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly” (Acts 6:7). And as we as God’s elect people in the Kingdom adhere to the old paths remaining true to that pattern; we will also reap the same great and wondrous harvest. I’m not saying that great multitudes of people are going to crowd into our church houses, but we ought not to be surprised at what the Lord of the harvest will bring to us in keeping with His wondrous mercy.

When these at the church at Jerusalem took up the responsibility of the office according to the scriptures the result was an ingathering of souls. And so great was the result that the words of these first seven faithful deacons that “a great company of priests were obedient to the faith” were added to the church. And can there be any doubt that the influence of godly, faithful, consecrated and dedicated men will reach into both high and low places being forth a good witness to those within the church as well as  to those outside.

 A man who is willing to serve faithfully as a deacon also has as his reward the fellowship with the saints of God. He has his part with these very same first seven men who in like manner were elected and served in the first church. What a blessing to have the knowledge that he is a part of an unbroken line of deacon’s going all of the way back to that first church of Jesus Christ, and to His Apostles!

        As a source of support to the pastor they have a close relationship with him that is unlike any other relationship that is found in the world. Not only does he have the fellowship of a family tie but the fellowship of a divinely ordained service as a reward that is without measure! But how could there be any better wages than this?

        And we read that men who “have used the office of deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree” (1 Tim. 3:13). In fact, no human “degree” that has ever been given by mortal man could be more deserved than one accorded to the man who has devoted his life to the service of God, Christ Jesus and His people.

       The word “degree” in this passage in First Timothy means a “threshold” or a “step.” It is used to picture a grade of dignity and wholesome influence in the church. Not an advance in rank, as is in worldly religions, but a position in the esteem of his fellow servants in God’s house.

      Before a man is elected as a deacon in the church he is like many others in the church. But as they faithfully serve, they almost visibly increase in spiritual stature. And if they humbly exercise their office faithfully they will develop in their spiritual effectiveness in the eyes of the church. This growth is caused when having put their hand to the plow and not looking backward, they are always moving forward step by step towards the “degree” that is spoken of for the deacon who faithfully serves.

     Another wage that comes to the faithful deacon is a great “boldness” in the faith, which the word that is most often used to describe the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. This had to do with His bearing before those who were against Him. Nothing intimidated our Lord’s word. And the testimony of His apostles was that they too, like their Master, spoke the word of God with boldness, just like Jesus did, which came to them as a result of their fellowship with Him. And the New Testament scriptures say that deacons are to have “great boldness in the faith” (1 Tim. 3:13). This means that they are to have a confident public expression of the faith, such as would belong to a seasoned deacon who has gained a good standing and in consequence and has no temptation to be “doubletongued.” 

How many churches are handicapped by timid men? These men who are elected into the office of deacon are to not be timid, but they step out and take the lead and go forth into the labor of the Kingdom of God, pulling together all of the resources within and without the church. When something like the lawn needs to be cut, they gather together the laborers to meet the task. When the roof is leaking, they don’t need to go into conference; they act and get the job taken care of. They are quick to listen to the opinions of others, and most willing to follow the plan which someone else has suggested and which others approved. Standing for, and under girding the efforts of their pastor with encouragement and the wisdom that God has richly blessed him with. This “quality” is not lightly bestowed by our Lord. It’s given to His faithful servants, the tired and experienced deacon, the man who has been willing to accept the full responsibility of his office for the delight that is found in faithfully serving His Lord Jesus Christ, for the love of His kingdom and His brethren.

     I say that the wages of the deacon are immeasurable, because they are the blessings of God which flow and are innumerable. Beloved there can be no greater privilege then to be chosen of the church under the wisdom of God to be an Old Primitive Baptist deacon.

Next time we will try to take up the thought that means so much to me and to elders who serve as pastors in old Baptist Churches and that is that “quality” of a deacon who sets the ministry free.

Elder Thomas McDonald

 
Primitive Baptist