True Worship - The Heart Of The Matter

Bible Book: Genesis  4
Subject: Worship; Heart of Man
Series: Genesis
[Editor's Note: This is sermon 5 of 8 on Genesis by Dr. Willmore.]

In the opening verses of chapter four, we see the beginning of family life. The Bible describes beautifully and reverently the relation of Adam and Eve as husband and wife. It simply says that Adam knew Eve, his wife, and she conceived. The use of the word knew is the Holy Spirit's way of describing the intimate, loving relationship of a husband and wife. It captures the meaning of the words in Genesis 2:24, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall be one flesh."

I. The Introduction to Worship

It is in the context of this first marriage relationship, this first family, this first biblical picture of a home, that we are introduced to worship. It is of interest to note that Cain and Abel had an understanding of worship, which they obviously learned in the home from their parents. When Cain and Abel reach adulthood, they are seen coming before God separately and individually to worship Him.

II. The Time for Worship

In verse two, there is an indication that there is a time to worship. The expression "in the process of time" in the New King James version means "at the end of days". This could imply Sabbath day worship when the work week is completed. This time could be in keeping with God's plan as revealed in creation that there would be six days for work and then a Sabbath day, a day of rest and worship.

III. The Necessity of Worship

It seems that both Cain and Abel learned something of the necessity of worship from their parents. However, Cain and Abel's understanding of the nature of worship was very different.

IV. The Contrasting Views of Worship

Contrasting views on the true nature of worship are seen in the Church today. Some people see the ceremonial, moral, legal and religious necessity to assemble at the appropriate time to worship God. Others are not motivated by such necessities. Their worship is motivated by love for God and desire to please Him. These are the ones who see the true nature of worship.

V. The Offerings in Worship

In verses three and four, both Cain and Abel bring their offerings to the Lord. Cain brought the fruit of the ground. Abel brought a pure, spotless, first-born lamb and gave it's life and it's blood as an offering unto the Lord. We are told that God respected Abel and his offering, and He did not respect Cain and his offering. The following questions will help us to understand why God accepted one man's worship and rejected the other.

V. The True Worship

Where does true worship begin? This is an important question. Does worship begin in a man's head or in his heart? Does true worship start with man and move to God, or does it originate with God?

A. Man-Centered Worship

Cain's worship seemed to be man centered. It started in his head, not in his heart. Cain's worship was based on what he could do, not on what God could do. Cain gave God the fruit of his efforts, of his work, of his ability.

B. God-Centered Worship

Abel's worship was God centered. It revealed his inability to produce that which was necessary to satisfy the Heart of God and to atone for his sins. He gave the life and the blood of a lamb. The life of the lamb came from God. Only God can create life, and life's source: blood. This is a critical issue.

For the Christian the nature of worship is defined by God, and who He is and what He has done. It is not based on man and what man can do.

1. In Understanding of the Holiness of God

What does true worship involve? True worship involves an understanding of the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. Cain approached God with the fruit of his own labors in hand. It is clear that he did not understand the true nature of sin. He did not understand that nothing he could do could please or appease a holy God.

2. An Understanding of the Sinfulness of Man

Abel, on the other hand, approached God differently. He came with a blood sacrifice. He came with an offering that he could not produce with his own hands. His sacrifice also included a broken heart, recognizing that the life of another was given on his behalf.

3. An Understanding of the Emptiness of Works

Why is worship of God accepted or rejected?

Since Cain and Abel learned about worship in their home from their parents, we can assume that Adam and Eve told them about the garments they had made of fig leaves, and that God had replaced them with garments made with skins from animals. The garments made of fig leaves again reveal man's efforts to atone for his own sins. The skins of the animals provided by God required the shedding of blood.

John Phillips, in his commentary on Genesis, addresses the dramatic differences in the two brothers and the two different methods of worship. "Cain and Abel had doubtless been told of fig leaves replaced by garments of skins. Abel believed; Cain did not. Abel took his place before God as a guilty, lost, helpless sinner needing an atoning sacrifice. His sins were so scarlet in God's sight that only the shedding of blood could atone. Thus, in some measure, great or small, Abel looked to Calvary. He believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Not so with Cain. He drew the tattered shreds of his own self-righteousness about him and spurned a salvation based on blood. To him such a notion was barbarous, offensive and disgusting. He scorned a salvation like that. He came to his own way, a way that seemed right enough to him and to his spiritual heirs ever since but a way categorically rejected by God. There are only two ways to approach God. He can be approached by the way of the cross, or He can be approached by the way of Cain."

God looks on the heart and when He looked on Cain's heart He saw that Cain's heart was void of faith and void of God. When God looked on Abel's sacrifice He saw faith; He saw a sincere desire to worship God.


The writer of the Book of Hebrews wrote, "By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it being dead yet speaks." (Hebrews 11:4) The hymn writer captures Abel's heart in these words,

"Not the labors of my hands

Can fulfill Thy law's demands;

These for sin could not atone;

Thou must save and Thou alone;

In my hand no price I bring.

Simply to Thy cross I cling."