If Condition for

Cain and Abel and in the Prophets


Salvation Conditional

 From the Beginning

IF Condition for Cain and Abel


    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. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. [6] And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? [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. Genesis 4:3-7

THIS STORY SHOULD BE SUFFICIENT to convince an unprejudiced mind that acceptance with God is conditional. Here God clearly stated His if-condition to Cain. Cain’s offering, the “fruit of the ground,” was rejected by God. Abel’s offering, the “firstlings of his flock and the fat thereof,” was accepted. When God “had respect” unto Abel and his offering, but did not have respect unto Cain and his offering, Cain became angry and his countenance fell.


God tried to reason with angry Cain, that he did not have an unconditional preference for Abel. God’s acceptance of Abel was because of his “more excellent sacrifice” (Heb. 11:4). Cain could have done as Abel did, and if he would have satisfied the conditional requirement for offerings, he would have been accepted.


The Apostle John wrote:

    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. (1 John 3:12)


The Apostle here told us why Cain killed Abel. Cain was of “that wicked one.” Cain’s works were evil, but Abel’s works were righteous. Cain’s offering exhibited evil works. Abel’s offering exhibited faith works. The world’s first murder was caused by the hatred of evil worship for righteous worship. Cain’s unbelief was revealed in his evil “works.” Abel’s faith was revealed in his righteous works.

Cain, the world’s first apostate, rejected God’s “if.” Evil Cain worshipped God, but not “by faith,” as Abel did. All the world’s religion today, as always, is divided into unbelief-worship and faith-worship.

Abel’s offering satisfied God’s “if,” Cain’s did not. That is the whole story. The faith and worth of Abel’s offering pleased God: the unbelief and cheapness of Cain’s offering did not.

    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. (Heb. 11:4)


God testified to Abel’s “gifts,” and it was his faith-gifts that God bore witness to.  The faith-gifts were the fact on which the witness was based. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him” (Titus 1:16).


The Cain spirit of worship continues to our day. Jude said, “Woe unto them! For they have gone in the way of Cain” (v. 11). The “way of Cain” is a system of religion. It can always be identified and marked by the fact that it has no part with God’s if-condition for acceptable worship. It is Cain-worship and it hates Abel-like worship.

    “…he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. (Gal. 4:29). As Cain rejected God’s if-condition so also the “way-of-Cain” religion rejects it today. Beware of any religion that rejects God’s “if.”


With these facts before us, can the reader agree with the Calvinist writers here quoted? “Those who are saved are not saved because of their faith or repentance or any other reason.” “The calling of God then is carting out of His own purpose independent of the saved one’s works.”


If Abel had offered the same kind of sacrifice as Cain, would he have been declared “righteous” by God? Would Cain have been rejected if he had obeyed God’s “if” and had he offered faith-gifts, like Abel? Is not a man righteous if his “works” are righteous? And is he not evil if his works are evil? Is not the same if-condition for acceptable worship required of us as for Cain and Abel?



The If-Condition in the Prophets


I Do NOT WISH to weary the reader with too many of these if-texts, so will not deal with them all. We shall look at a few more in the prophets to see how often God stressed this condition, and that it was an essential part of the covenant agreement. It was a qualification providing that when one does not perform a required act or acts, the promise is not operative. Compliance with the if-terms was required before the covenant would become effective.

These if-terms specified not only obedience to the covenant laws but that they must be continually obeyed.


The Bible is based on a system of moral law easily understood by men. As in human covenants, so also in the divine–breach of covenant means forfeiture of covenant rights. Upon performance of the conditions, God, the Covenanter, assumed the obligations that became binding on His part. He was the Oath-Bound God. The nonperformance of the conditions would nullify and set aside the covenant for the covenant breakers. God is ready and willing to perform His part…if.


During the days of the prophet Azariah, there was a time of revival, prosperity, and peace in Israel because they obeyed this prophet who had warned King Asa:


The Lord is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you. (II Chron. 15:2) If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven…and will heal their land. (II Chron. 7: 14)


King Hezekiah, after the Assyrian captivity, warned Israel of the penalties attached to a broken covenant. He told them about their fathers who had suffered divine punishments because of breach of covenant. He reminded them of sad events in Israel’s history because of their covenant transgressions. His appeal to them was based on God’s covenant-if: For if ye turn again unto the Lord…the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto him. The people accepted the covenant invitation and “there was great joy in Jerusalem” (51 Chron. 30:1-26).


In Nehemiah’s time there was a “remnant…left of the captivity”; and when Nehemiah desired to re- build the wall of Jerusalem, he reminded God of His covenant-if: “Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandest thy servant Moses, saying, …If ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence” (Neh. 1:8, 9).

They obeyed the condition, and God was with them to rebuild the wall. Isaiah stressed this if factor in his message to Israel:

If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. (Isa. 1:19, 20)


Jeremiah, in his tearful pleadings to save Israel from the deceptive security promised by the false prophets, told them:

For if ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor; If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow…neither walk after other gods to your hurt: Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever. (Jer. 7: 5-7)


Jeremiah, in his effort to save Israel from national disaster, repeated this if-warning twelve times in chapters 12:16, 17; 15:19; 17:24-27; 18:&10; 22:4, 5; 26:3, 4. But the people believed the false prophets and did not obey Jeremiah’s “ifs.” And God’s vengeance left their country in ruins, and the people in slavery and death.


There was often a conflict between the true prophets and the false prophets who did not require obedience to God’s commandments. They allowed the people to continue in their sins. God said their prophesied false security was a “horrible thing”… “and my people love to have it so” (Jer. 5:30, 31). They said that Jeremiah’s prophesied judgments would not come (Jer. 14:13-15). The people told the prophets: “Speak unto us smooth things” (Isa. 30:10).


The false prophets told them the smooth things. What could be smoother than to tell them they could continue in their sins and that they and their nation would be saved? This delusion of security was widespread over Israel. The Jews believed they were the predestinated heirs of Abraham and forever secure in the fortunes of the Abrahamic Covenant.

“They cannot imagine that the time will ever come when…the state would come to an end.” They thought they were “secure, and can go about sinning with impunity” (Driver). The true prophets always tried to save the people from the “lying words” and the spell of false security cast over them by the false prophets. The false prophets gave the people a false assurance.

When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby.

But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby. (Ezek. 33:18, 19)


Ezekiel knew nothing about a predestination that keeps the sinner while he persists in sin. He said the sinner must turn from his sin and do that which is lawful and right, or he would die. The covenant conditions carried all the way through to the end of the Old Testament. Zechariah told the priest Joshua:

 Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts. (Zech. 3:7) The last covenant-if in the Old Testament is in Malachi 2:2.

And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the Lord of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you.


The commentaries of Professors Delitzsch and Driver, quoted before for the meaning of the if- condition, also agree that this “if” has the same conditional sense in the prophets. The Pulpit Commentary, Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary, and other leading critical  commentaries agree.


So, from God’s “if” to Cain, to Malachi’s “if” to the priests, we have seen a long chain of 63 if-texts to prove that the Jewish covenants were conditional. And New Testament salvation is founded on these covenants. Isn’t it strange that Eternal Security teachers give no importance to a condition that God has emphasized more than 63 times in these Old Testament covenants upon which salvation was established?


We go now to the New Testament and shall see there the same emphasis on this if-condition for salvation that we found in the Old Testament. Salvation was not conditional in the Old Testament and unconditional in the New. By a rule of unity, both Testaments are one.


Many leading Biblical authorities give full support to the following statement: There is much reason for believing that the habit…of treating the hermeneutics of the New Testament separately from the Old, has occasioned the misunderstanding of some important doctrines of Holy Writ. The language and style in which certain New Testament teachings are expressed are so manifestly modeled after Old Testament forms of statement, that they cannot be properly explained without a minute and thorough apprehension of the import of the older Scripture.


Salvation came from Jewish covenants. Each of these covenants was an If-Covenant. We shall now see that the New Covenant is an If-Covenant.




1966 Bethany House Publishers

Reproduced with permission



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