In all its forms, sin is marked as mankind's enemy. It must be defeated to God's satisfaction for Him to accept us. If not, our relationship with Him will not be continued for eternity.
Because sin is an ever-present reality of life, it is essential that we have sufficient knowledge to recognize it before its fiery darts strike us down. This requires consistent, thoughtful study of God's Word and effort to build an awareness of its presence, enabling us to beat it to the punch, so to speak.
Overcoming sin is indeed a formidable task, but not a hopeless one. One reason why it is not hopeless, when rightly thought through, is quite encouraging. Jesus teaches in Luke 12:48:
But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.
We are admonished to be alert because our enemy is at the door (Genesis 4:7), stalking us as we make our way through life. However, we are also encouraged to understand that we are all judged individually. God judges everyone against the same standard, yet He judges individually according to our natural talents, gifts, dedication, faithfulness, discipline, time sacrificed, and energies exerted to overcome against what God knows we are capable of.
We stand alone, as it were, not measured against any other person. Though the ultimate standard is the holy, righteous character of the Father and Son, we are neither measured against their performance nor any other human's performance. We are not in competition against others.
Though not measured against the performance of the Father and Son, we are nonetheless urged to strive to be at one with them. They are in complete and total agreement with each other. It is to this oneness that God wants to bring us, not merely intellectually, but also in attitude and conduct. They do not sin, and imitating this sinlessness becomes our great challenge in life.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Sin, Christians, and the Fear of God
Because God had not accepted his offering or because He had accepted Abel's, Cain was angry and depressed. God tells him that if he changes his ways, he will indeed be accepted. But if he does not change, sin—pictured as a slave crouched just outside the door of his heart, awaiting the bidding of its master—would spring to action. God is describing sin's persistent nearness; it is always ready to extend its dominance by increasing iniquity. Sin strives to pile iniquity upon iniquity, even as one lie usually produces another to keep a facade of deception from crumbling.
God's warning is clear. Repent of sin at once, or it has a powerful tendency to grow and thoroughly dominate one who does nothing to stop it. This thought is reinforced in the final sentence of verse 7, "And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."
In paraphrasing God's words, James G. Murphy in Barnes' Notes, gives an insightful comment:
Thy case will be no longer a heedless ignorance, and consequent dereliction of duty, but a willful overmastering of all that comes by sin, and an unavoidable going on from sin to sin, from inward to outward sin, or, in specific terms, from wrath to murder, and from disappointment to defiance, and so from unrighteousness to ungodliness. This is an awful picture of his fatal end, if he do [sic] not instantly retreat. ("Genesis," p. 151)
In modern terms, God is saying, "Practice makes perfect." Sin's desire is so persistent and its appeal so subtle that, if it is not consciously stopped, one will become a master, a "pro," as we would say today, at sinning. It becomes a way of life. Jeremiah 4:22 makes this principle even clearer. "For My people are foolish; they have not known Me. They are silly children and they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge."
Did not God's warning prove true in Cain's life? We cannot afford to ignore sin's pervasive influence.
John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does
We can interpret this two ways. First, from the beginning of God's dealings with mankind, He shows a major objective for man is to be accomplished by overcoming, mastering sin's desire to control and manipulate. Sin's desire is always lurking within man's moral and ethical choices, and he needs to be aware of it and have the drive to conquer it.
Second, it is a warning contained in a prophecy to all but given specifically to Cain. God perceived in him a strong proclivity to sin, so much that he would become a master of it. In today's parlance, Cain would become a real "pro" at sinning. The warning is not to allow oneself to follow Cain's example, which gives the impression that he nurtured sin dwelling in him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Seven): Fear of Judgment
In the well-known story of Cain and Abel, the first man born on the earth also becomes the first murderer. A few points in this account are significant:
- Cain killed Abel after a quarrel over a sacrifice to God. Cain brought a sacrifice, but God would not accept it because it did not meet His standards. While Abel's offering showed his complete submission to God, Cain's hints at grudging worship of God - and that done in his own way.
- Becoming angry and sullen over his rejection, he quarreled with and killed his brother. Then, he lied to God's face! He had no fear of God or the consequences of sin.
- Cain's retort to God's inquiry as to Abel's whereabouts is also significant: "Am I my brother's keeper?" Cain's attitude of indifference toward his fellow man greatly influenced later generations.
- Coupled with his entirely selfish attitude, Cain tried to take advantage even of God's curse upon him. Using a "woe is me" ploy, he "convinced" God to guard his life from anyone avenging Abel's murder.
The way of Cain - idolatry, murder, deceit, selfishness, hypocrisy - saturated Pre-Flood society to the point that God, seeing the wickedness of man, regretted He had even created humanity (Genesis 6:5-7).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'As It Was In the Days of Noah'
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Genesis 4:7:
1 Corinthians 6:13-15