Q and A: How Could Cain Be A Master Over His Sin?

Hey I found you via GuG group on facebook.  Very cool think you've got going on here.  It is very thorough and covers a lot of ground.  And I like the using our brains approach.  Lately I've been thinking outside the theology I've been raised in and really started to question certain aspects.  I guess it starts with the idea of hell, the eternality of it, who goes there and why comes into play.. Lots of questions there, many that we perhaps can't even know the answers to.

But this topic comes into play as well of course.  In Genesis God confronts Cain before he kills his brother Abel.

Genesis 4:5-6 When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. 3 When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. 4 Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, 5 but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

6 “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? 7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

Lots of questions from these verses, did Cain have the wrong job?  We know that Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice, the Lamb of God, and I get the "coats of skins" sacrifice implied when God provided a covering for their nakedness.  But the real question I have here relates to verse 7: "You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

According to this, we can do what it right and be accepted.  We can subdue sin and be it's master.  We are not slaves to sin.  We are not literally dead in trespasses and sins, and powerless to do what is good, and right.  While we are not perfectly righteous and sinless we can still be accepted by doing the right thing.

Though we may disagree, I would like to hear your thoughts on this.

----- Benjamin


Neat! I'm glad you told me where you found this site. I'm always interested in knowing how people discovered Cerebral Faith. I really sympathize with your struggles over the doctrine of Hell. This is an issue I used to struggle with myself. If you’re interested, a friend of mine and I debated 2 atheists on this subject a year ago on how God could be just in sending people to an eternal Hell. Click here to view the video. However, it’s 2 hours long, and if you want something a little quicker, see my article “The Doctrine Of Hell and Objections To It”.

However, as for your question about verse 7 of Genesis 4, I believe that by "doing what is right", God meant that Cain should live a good and decent life in order to have a fulfilling relationship with him, rather than being saved by his good works which is contradicted by a handful of New Testament passages (e.g Ephesians 2:8-9). God is saying that he will have a relationship with Cain just like he does with Abel if he forsakes his sins and tries to walk righteously. This is still the case today. The Bible states in several places how sin drives a wedge between us and God, and how wallowing in sin and immorality is diametrically opposed to a healthy relationship with God. For example, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” The blind man whom Jesus healed said “We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will.” (John 9:31), and Proverbs 15:19 says “The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.“ Proverbs 15:8 says “The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him.” A relationship with God and life of sin are incompatible.

Since Cain was harboring sin in his heart, God was “far from him” Proverbs 15:19, and “detested his sacrifice” (Proverbs 15:8). Now, as you point out, God’s command to be a master over his sin and to not let it rule over him seems to contradict Paul’s doctrine in the book of Romans about us being slaves to sin and about us being unable to live righteously on our own efforts. Now, I don’t know what you believe soteriologically speaking, but I adhere to a more Arminian view, and I believe God grants grace to all people that enables them to choose good and even to receive Christ as their savior (this is called by theologians “prevenient grace”). However, even if you’re not an Arminian and adhere to a more Calvinistic view, it may not matter on whether you accept this answer, because nowadays even many Calvinist theologians have adopted a particular type of prevenient grace that they call “Common Grace”. They appeal to the doctrine of common grace to explain how even unbelievers can sometimes choose to do good things like give a starving man something to eat, or pay for a complete stranger’s medical bills, for examples. They just don’t extend this type of grace to choice to receive Christ, like Arminians do. If common grace is true, it would explain how Cain could choose to do good even though he was spiritually lost. Although, the "being the master of his sin" is a little problematic for a Calvinistic view of common grace. This would fit more in line with the Arminian prevenient grace view, that God grants grace to enable us to repent to receive forgiveness. If Cain had repented of his sins and asked God to forgive him, he would have been spiritually saved, from which point on, it would be possible for him to be the master over his sins (as a regenerate man). God was probably urging Cain to repent so that he could be saved since receiving salvation is the only way a man can be a master over his sins (see Romans 7-8). If Cain had responded to God’s calling (his prevenient grace) and was regenerated, he would have been accepted, would have lived a more righteous lifestyle, and would’ve been master over his sins. Instead, he became jealous of his brother and decided to murder him in revenge, for which God called him to account for.