Two Religions: Works and Blood

Jesus' bloodTravel around the world and you would be forgiven for thinking there are thousands of religions and belief-systems. But in reality there are only two religions:

1.    religion based on works

2.    religion based on the blood of Jesus

People waste years studying different religions trying to figure out which one is best. But when you strip away all the packaging it’s actually a fairly simple choice: it’s either your works or his blood. Still, dealing with simple choices has never been humanity’s strong point. Just look at the history of religion…

The dummies’ guide to religion

From the time of Cain men have been trying to impress God with the fruits of their labor. And from the time of Cain God has been rejecting their offerings:

“The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.” (Gen 4:4-5)

Abel, you will recall, offered the firstborn of his flock while Cain brought a fruit basket. Why was Abel’s offering accepted while Cain’s was rejected?

“By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous….” (Heb 11:4 NKJV)

Both Cain and Abel had faith, but Abel’s faith led to a more excellent sacrifice. Malcolm Smith, author of The Lost Secret of the New Covenant, writes that “Biblical faith never initiates an action; it is a responsive act of trust in a word from God” (p.105). What was Abel responding to? He was responding to the sacrificial gift God had given to Adam and Eve in the Garden. No doubt Abel learned from his parents how God had shed the blood of animals to hide their nakedness. By faith, Abel trusted that a blood sacrifice of this nature would make him pleasing to God and it did.

Abel’s faith was a response to what God had done, but Cain’s faith was in the work of his own hands. Abel considered what God had done, but Cain wanted God to look at what he had done. Big mistake. Instead of adopting God’s definition of an acceptable sacrifice, he tried to forge his own religion and was rejected. Cain got angry and went into a sulk. Look carefully at what God said next:

“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (Gen 4:7)

Cain had worked hard to please God. His offering was paid for by the sweat of his brow and the toil of his hands. It was a costly sacrifice, but it was a useless and unacceptable one nonetheless. God in his mercy pointed Cain back in the right direction, but Cain didn’t repent. Instead he murdered his brother and the rest is history.

Two brothers, two religions

Religion based on human effort was, and continues to be, unacceptable to God. You can toil and serve and bring costly sacrifices every day of your life and it will change your standing before him not one bit. He is a just God and you are a born sinner. You cannot buy your salvation with acts of charity. You cannot bribe your way into the Book of Life with your acts of righteousness. Don’t get angry like Cain, just repent and put your faith in the blood sacrifice given by God.

Of course this does not mean you should go out and slaughter some poor sheep! The blood of animals does nothing to take away our sins (Heb 10:4). Before the cross these things only had value because they pointed ahead to the blood of Jesus. We live after the cross. The Lamb of God has come and his one-time sacrifice was more than enough to account for all the sins of the world (Heb 9:26).

Jesus once said:

“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you,” (Jn 6:53).

Do you hunger and thirst for Christ and his righteousness? Or are you satisfied by the fruits of your own labor? Jesus made it plain that religion based on works is unacceptable to God and leads to death. But faith in his blood leads to eternal life and favor with God.

Two preachers

Just as there are only two religions, there are two kinds of preacher; those who say we are qualified by works and those say we are qualified by the blood of Jesus. These two preachers may look the same, but their messages could not be more different. Consider the following 10 contrasts…

The Works-Preacher says, you have to do stuff to stay saved. Make a mistake and you’re lost for eternity.
The Blood-Preacher says, Jesus’ blood has obtained your eternal and complete redemption (Heb 9:12). Nothing can separate you from the love of God.

WP: Don’t touch! Don’t handle! Touch no unclean thing and be holy.
BP: You are sanctified by the blood of the covenant (Heb 10:29), that is, by Jesus’ blood (Lk 22:20). We separate ourselves from unclean things not to become holy but because we are already holy and what fellowship does light have with darkness?

WP: You have to overcome in life’s trials and dress yourself in white clothes, otherwise he will blot out your name.
BP: It’s not about you. Jesus is your victory! Wash your filthy self-righteous clothes in the cleansing blood of the Lamb (Rev 7:14). Rejoice, because he promised to never blot out your name.

WP: Say your prayers and have a quiet time every day. If you don’t remain in him, he’ll lop you off and throw you into the fire.

BP: Jesus said, “Whoever drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him” (Jn 6:56). Your “remaining” has nothing to do with having a quiet time. God has reconciled you to himself through Christ. Your reconciliation is something he did, not you. When you apprehend who he is and how much he has already blessed you, a healthy appetite will motivate you to discover more of him in his word.

WP: Beware of sin! It desires to be your Master.
BP: We are called to be Christ-conscious, not sin-conscious. His sacrifice did away with sin (Heb 9:26). We have been set free from our sin by his blood (Rev 1:5). Live free from fear and condemnation.

WP: When you sin, you need to confess to get forgiven again.
BP: You were forgiven 2000 years ago (Col 2:13). Jesus said your forgiveness is not based on confession, but his blood (Mt 26:28). His blood is a necessary and sufficient condition for your complete forgiveness (Heb 9 & 10).

WP: When you sin, you need to confess to get clean again.
BP: The blood of Jesus cleanses and keeps on cleansing you (1 Jn 1:7).

WP: Confession is good for clearing a guilty conscience. Ask the Holy Spirit to examine you and point out your shortcomings.
BP: The blood of Christ has cleansed your conscience so that we may be free to serve God (Heb 9:14). Because of Christ’s perfect sacrifice, the Holy Spirit chooses to remember your sins no more (Heb 10:17). He will only ever convict you of your righteousness in Christ (Jn 16:10).

WP: God is holy and lives in unapproachable light. Don’t even think about drawing near.
BP: You who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ (Eph 2:13).

WP: No one can see the face of God and live. Better stay safe and hang back.
BP: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus… let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled by the blood of Jesus to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Heb 10:19-22)

Pastor Cain vs Pastor Abel

Who are you listening to? Where is your faith? Is it in death-dealing works of religion? Or is it in the life-giving blood of Jesus Christ? Are you striving to earn God’s favor or are you resting in the finished work of the cross?

It makes no difference whether you’re Catholic or Protestant, Episcopalian, Baptist or a member of the Western Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism. If you are standing on the blood of Jesus, then you are completely forgiven, you are acceptable, and God’s favor rests on you!

___

Related posts:
- Whose medicine are you taking? The dangers of taking scripture out of context
- Nothing but the blood of Jesus: Five reasons to thank him
- What was Last Adam’s greater work?

Comments

  1. Brandon says:

    Well said. :) You put into words what I was grasping at describing in response to your “Nothing But the Blood” message. The Holy Spirit’s work in us is conviction of our righteousness, not one of condemnation for mistakes, and when you look at the big picture of the Bible with all the supporting details, it makes perfect sense.

  2. Susan Vivas says:

    Great post, as always!!!! Thank you for sharing!!!! God bless!!!

  3. Outstanding Paul! This is a Word the Bride of Christ needs to hear! I intend to use it in a preach soon…

  4. @Brandon: Indeed it does, especially when you read everything through the lens of the cross.

    @Susan: You’re welcome! Thanks for the encouragement.

    @Thanks Steve: I know you will have fun preaching this. Preaching Jesus, a.k.a. Grace, is one of the greatest thrills I know.

  5. Really enjoying the blog! Keep posting :-)

  6. 8thday4life says:

    It’s been amazing to me that no matter the theological base, men still often manage to bring it all back around to what YOU must do. Some call it method, some call it fruit, but either way, the focus goes all to the believer which creates fear and insecurity. I have found even after finally seeing the New Covenant, I still am prone to see the elements of my loving relationship with my Father as things I must do to please Him. I keep going back to the marriage covenant relationship and anything that would be out of place in my relationship with my husband… (like checking off a list of things I need to do to nurture our marriage…. the list being the focus and not my love for him…) is equally out of place in my relationship with my heavenly Bridegroom. Look forward to reading more of your posts!

  7. Paul = Awesome.
    Another stunning word, man.

  8. I love they way you contrast things! Makes it so easy to see. It still baffles me how somebody would still read this and choose works over blood. Makes no sense.

    Good word! OH YEAAAH!

  9. Paul

    Brilliant once again! I read this over a McDonalds Breafast and nearly forgot to eat, he-he… You clarified the Abel – Cain issue for me very well, never quite understood why Cain’s offer was rejected. Thanks brother. Another light just went on in my mind, serving to further establish me in Grace and Righteousness. Bless you for sharing this.

    In Grace, Andre van der Merwe

  10. Good..!!! but the offering which cain brought was not a sin offering. later on we see in the books that the people were required to bring offerings (the first fruits of their ground)which is what cain did but the only reason that was rejected was it was not offered by faith.(as per scripture) not because it was the wrong offering.

    • Hi Amar – I’m not sure I understand your point. Cain was not providing a prophetic picture of the Harvest Feast (Ex 23). I think that’s reading too much into it as Cain was not under law. The difference between the 2 offerings was simply faith, as I explain in the post. Faith is a positive response to something God has done. In that sense, faith never innovates, and Cain was an innovator.

      Cain’s lack of faith led him to bring a costly but useless offering. His was a manmade religion based on human understanding. It was inventive and faithless. We could even say Cain had sinned, because anything that doesn’t come from faith is sin (Rms 14:23). This seems to be John’s view: “Cain was of the evil one… his works were evil and his brother’s righteous” (1 Jn 3:12).

      By bringing the very thing God had rejected in the garden (fruits, representing man’s attempt to cover sin), Cain was thumbing his nose at God’s way of salvation (which required blood). God even told Cain that he had not done right (Gen 4:7), so there was no doubt about the uselessness of the offering and the misdirected intent behind it. In bringing fruits of the soil, Cain was essentially saying “my sin and the sentence of death under which I live do not need to be addressed.” He saw no need to put his faith in what God had initiated and instead forged his own religion based on the dead works of the flesh. And misguided religious people have been doing the exact same thing ever since.

      • I like most of your post but this one is hard to accept. I”ll give you some background. I am in the IT industry for a long time. Let’s just say that I am still making much less than the median in the industry and haven’t had much chance to participate in the really innovative stuff. I probably would have a much better life (i.e., more time and money for God) being a school teacher or a civic clerk (I never tried the former but failed the exam for the later). If Cain was rejected simply because he offered crops, I would say he really failed by choosing the wrong career – farmer rather than shepherd. I guess Abel by faith knew the value of the blood and therefore chose shepherd.

      • Alex, Cain wasn’t rejected on account of his crops but for his faithlessness. The actions are of no consequence except they revealed the heart. There are plenty of non-shepherds in the Bible who were found faithful and judged righteous.

  11. I must confess this was a fascinating post. The differences between your WP and your BP are profound yet often subtle. I’ve heard all of those from both sides in church. No wonder so many people are so confused. I do believe faith without works is dead, however as you pointed out the good works are fruit of faith, not the other way around. Thanks for a post that made me think.

  12. Achinka Amin says:

    God Bless You, Paul, for such an amazing and inspiring post. “For by one offering he (Jesus Christ) hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified”. (Hebrews 10:14)

  13. Gracelyn says:

    Bless yo!

  14. I have a question…if God sees us through Jesus, then what about the hypocrites and Queen Jezebel and King Ahaz? How does God see them?

  15. If Faith never innovates, why is innovation considered a virtue? Doesn’t Christian leader John Maxwell find value in innovation? What if I innovate in the name of Jesus (whether openly or otherwise)? Similarly, how can we account for growth and change while we are ‘ever-new’ as Christians? Finally, does Jesus permit sin within limits, when faith is too hard – like a rock?

  16. Definitely right. Two thumbs up!

  17. What about the verse, “Faith without action is dead”?

    How do you differ ‘action’ from ‘works’? Do you have a post clarifying this?

    Hope you respond…

  18. thank you! for the would of god….God bless

    .

  19. my bad! the word of god I thank you for bring it to me from god moth to your lips. and with out the world God made we would not be down here to bring the word …GB…
    .

  20. thank you pastor

  21. Let me revive these older comments! ;)
    I just recently found this site and really, REALLY appreciate you Paul. But sometimes as I’m reading, although I get many revelations, I get a few questions as well. After catching on to Joseph Prince’s teachings I feel this “Grace” stuff is spot on. This seems a step above the Faith teachings I was very accustomed too.
    My question is this….If the “Law” is not for us Believers then are we to use any of it for today? By law I mean the moral laws…10 Commandments and other moral laws in Leviticus. Let me explain. I have a younger lady friend whom I feel is a believer but she is a lesbian and currently in a relationship. I have made a few Grace based posts on my Facebook wall to which she has responded asking what I mean. Now My/Religions/Christianities old way of thinking would be to tell her she is wrong to be in that kind of relationship. But according to what I feel I am hearing with the Grace stuff is rather than say something to condemn her it’s more appropriate to simply show her the Love of Christ. This way Love will be a step in the right direction for her without making her feel guilty.

    Of course if this is the proper way to handle sin in the world that just makes me wonder how to view the old “Law” from the Grace perspective. Does any of it even matter? I’m not talking about license to sin. I understand that teaching from JP. How about sexual immorality, more precisely fornication? I will tell you that my one weakness is being in a sexual relationship and not being married is very hard for me to overcome. I understand part of that is self condemnation but I also understand, at least according to the Law, that is a no-no. And I would take this a step further to see the difference between a casual relationship to one of long term commitment. Dang one can beat themselves senseless over this Grace stuff! lol

    I was discussing this with a friend the other day. How about those who have never seen an Old Testament and were helped to salvation via a missionary? They have no knowledge of the”Law” so not prebiased to some if the do’s and do not’s. I know that the laws are written on our(Believer’s )hearts. So how would someone who was completely unfamiliar with the law perceive sex outside of marriage once they accept Christ in their lives? Especially if that was culturally accepted beforehand. For me I wrestle with the thought is that the Law(my old religious self) telling me NO or is the the Holy Spirit telling me or not?

    I will say that I can see some big changes in my life after reading “Destined to Reign” and other Grace based teachings including this site.

    And how about circumcision? I know that circumcision was part of the Law of Moses however it was instituted though Abraham long before the Law was given on Mt Sinai. So should it perhaps be treated differently? Now I know that circumcision is specifically mentioned in the New Testament as not making a difference but…..just thinking out loud!

    • Hi Felix,
      The law was put in charge to lead us to Christ so that we might be justified by faith (Gal 3:24). The law is very good at breaking self-righteousness. For those who think they can impress God with their piety, the law raises the bar to 40,000 feet and says “Jump this!” Regarding your friend, she needs to hear the good news not the bad news, the gospel not the law. It is a revelation of God’s goodness that leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4). Tell her what her Father thinks of her – how much he loves her and cares for her and if she doubts, point to the cross. That’s how much God loves us (Rom 5:8).

  22. Lourdes Fe Sevilla says:

    Hungry for more of Jesus …. more of Grace and His revelation as I see Jesus more on His word … Unveiled as the true manna from heaven that we need to eat each day !
    Thank you so much for sharing and more of God’s favors upon you ! Amazing Grace keeps on touching lives !

  23. I enjoyed reading this post and how you laid out the issue. I agree with most of it. However, there is one issue I can’t agree on. That is the issue of repentance and confession of our sins. I enjoy JP and many of the revelations but as I hear him lead people to salvation he never says they must repent of their sins or confess.

    Jesus said in Matthew 3:2 and 4:17….Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. The verse you referred to in 1John 1:7 goes on in verse 8,9 and 10 to say..8:If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10: If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

    His blood is greater than my sin and He didn’t come to condemn me, He came to save, to heal and to deliver me from every evil work of the enemy in my life. He has clearly told me that I am in a season of submission to let Him shine His light into the dark shadows of my heart, not to condemn and shame me but to free me through His love, His blood, His Spirit so that I may be that shining star it talks about in Rev and in Daniel 12:3 for this end time. He has His perfect timing of when we are ready to see what He sees and shed the sin that is entangling us. Totally agree, it’s His love that leads me to repentance and have to watch the condemnation demon:) To say however that repentance is a one time event is not biblically shown as far as I can see. Blessings to you…..

  24. Hi Paul & all,
    Thanks for this offering; liberating as usual. I understand that you may have heard from God that Abel’s offering was accepted because he followed God’s example of when He killed to provide for Adam & Eve.
    For me that’s a stretch. Could it be, instead, that Abel lived in Relationship with God so Heard His voice and therefore His will for him in this matter? Faith comes through hearing.
    Grace & peace brother.

    • Yes, Abel was responding to God, and this is faith. So definitely Abel heard something, but how did he hear? And did Cain also hear? The Bible doesn’t say. He could have remembered what God had told. God could have spoken to them all. I don’t know. But the important thing is that Abel responded positively to God, which is the essence of faith.

      • Why couldn’t he hear just as Adam and Eve had and as Cain did later ie audibly.This seems more plausible than assuming that God would want a blood offering because He had earlier made A & E garments of skin.
        Was the better sacrifice not better because it was the FAT portions ie the best portions showing a better response otherwise he would have made God some animal skin clothes.
        Abel had relationship with God that Cain didn’t. This resulted in Him giving his best and perhaps hearing from God the exact sacrifice He desired.
        I hear your effort vs faith thing and I agree I just don’t agree that THIS EPISODE demonstrates this and as such may dilute the point you are making.
        Blessings

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