Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” (Gen. 4:1)

Introduction

Specific details about the coming Redeemer as understood by those mentioned in the early pages of Scripture are hazy at best. It would be foolish to think in light of many New Testament passages that explicitly tell us that the former things were in fact under construction (Heb. 1:1, 11:13; 1 Pet. 1:10-11; Titus 1:2; Rom. 4:1-5; Jn. 8:56) that those mentioned in the early pages of Scripture had a robust understanding of the coming Redeemer. The Old Testament’s own intertextuality, its own subsequent revelation making explicit only what was implicit in prior revelation, shows the reader an unfolding story, a light slowly dawning over time (2 Pet. 1:19). Light cast from the New Testament back onto the Old Testament gives the reader a divine and infallible commentary on what God meant in the many ways He spoke in the former times (Heb. 1:1-2). A first read of the Bible lends even the novice the simple understanding that the things mentioned in the early pages of Scripture are organically growing, progressively unfolding, subsequently revealing themselves, and pointing to the culmination of all of history in the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ (Jn. 19:30).

Recently an excellent article entitled “The Faith and Hope of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, and Moses” was published which re-kindled thoughts in my mind about a topic that I began thinking about many months ago regarding Eve and what I believe to be a profession of her faith in the promised One to come in Gen. 4:1. What is fascinating about the article is that it traces the faith of those between the banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden-temple of God to the account of Abraham. It is an exploration of Heb. 11:13-16 and the saints from the early pages of Scripture listed there. The article asks the all-important question: where did they [Abel, Enoch, Noah, etc.] get their information on which their faith was set? It proposes that Gen. 3:15 is the highly probable and rudimentary promise upon which their faith was set. I agree.

The article, however, stops at Abel (using the list from Heb. 11 as its guide). John Calvin, speaking of the weighty task of searching the mind of God in the Scriptures, and more specifically speaking of the mystery of the predestination of God, gave wise advice when he said,

…when the Lord closes his holy mouth, let us also stop the way, that we may not go farther.[1]

We would be wise to heed this advice in our examination of the Scriptures as well. Is this the case, however, when it comes to the character Eve? Is such a question regarding Eve’s faith fanciful speculation or is it of such an esoteric nature that it is practically meaningless? Is this simply theological gobbledygook? I do not believe so. I think with the proper theological framework we can push further into the issue of the faith of those mentioned in the early pages of Scripture. We can push back further than those mentioned in Heb. 11:13-16. My reasoning for this is the fact that the promise in Gen. 3:15 involves two more very important people. Those people are Adam and Eve. This at least opens the possibility that both Adam and Eve had faith in the promise because the promise was given to them.

Again, before we embark on this journey, we must admit that if Eve understood the promise of Gen. 3:15 her understanding at best was hazy, even though there was direct revelation from God regarding a Redeemer to come. We have to admit that her understanding of the things promised was incipient. But incipient faith has as its object something concrete. I believe that Eve’s faith had as its concrete object the coming Redeemer. I believe that Eve was a Christian, anachronistically speaking. Her understanding of the details was hazy. It was not as sharply defined as ours today, yet it was nevertheless concrete (Gen. 1:1-2).

How Are They To Believe In Him Of Whom They Have Never Heard?

To begin I think it would be helpful to ask an important question: from where did Abel receive the information of his faith? His parents were direct recipients, along with the serpent, of the promise and he is, after all, listed in the “faith chapter” of the Bible. In fact he is the first one in that list. It is important to understand that there is a God given antithesis between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman in Gen. 3:15. God has forever placed enmity between belief and unbelief. It is this antithesis that marks the distinguishing line in the sand between belief and unbelief. It is this antithesis that is so starkly contrasted in the reality of heaven and hell.

One practical implication of this antithesis is the fact that no matter what side of the line you are on, you will never commend what you do not cherish.[2] What do I mean? It is very likely that Abel received the promise from his parents because His parents cherished that very promise. His parents would have commended to him what they cherished themselves. Being the second child born on Earth is this completely out of the question (Rom. 10:14-15)? How was Abel to believe without a preacher? His father was a prophet, priest, and king in the Garden-temple of God, set there to spread the glory of God over the face of the Earth (Gen. 2:15). His wife as his helpmate partnered in this task. Surely, not having attained the promise of eternal life by disobedience and having received the promise of One who would gain eternal life for them by obedience (Rom. 5:21), Adam would have passed this promise onto Abel. It seems very likely and natural that Abel would have heard of the Redeemer from his parents. Where else would he have heard it? Abel’s faith was in the One who would not simply take them back to the Garden but his faith was in the One who would take them all the way to glory, the original goal of his father’s failed obedience. Through faith, though Abel is dead, he still speaks!

Cain would have been no different. He would have heard of the promised One from his parents, maybe even with a little twinkle in his mother’s eye as she pondered in her heart whether or not her son Cain would be that very One to deliver them and take them to glory. Cain knew what God expected as an offering to foreshadow this One who would come, an offering directly tied to the promise of Gen. 3:15 (cf. Gen. 22). But he did not offer what God required and God had no regard for his rebellion (Gen. 4:3-4; Heb. 11:4). Abel, however, was obedient. Owen says his giving was a “holocaust”[3], a total consummation of the offering. Cain gave without a judgment as to what was best. He gave without thought. Abel gave with faith because he was regenerate. Cain did not because he was not. Cain was proven to be of the flesh, a murderer.

John Owen comments:

Cain considered God only as a creator and preserver, whereon he offered the fruits of the earth, as an acknowledgment that all these things were made, preserved, and bestowed on man, by him; but he had no respect unto sin, or the way of deliverance from it revealed in the first promise. The faith of Abel was fixed on God, not only as a creator, but as redeemer also; as him who, in infinite wisdom and grace, had appointed the way of redemption by sacrifice and atonement intimated in the first promise. Wherefore his faith was accompanied with a sense of sin and guilt, with his lost condition by the fall, and a trust in the way of redemption and recovery which God had provided. And this he testified in the kind of his sacrifice, which was by death and blood; in the one owning the death which himself by reason of sin was obnoxious unto; in the other the way of atonement, which was to be by blood, the blood of the promised Seed.”[4]

Notice that Owen recognizes that both Cain and Abel had revelation of the first promise. They both knew what Gen. 3:15 meant. Cain’s offering, according to Owen, was in direct contrast to the deliverance revealed in the first promise, which he was repulsed by. God’s judgment of Cain seemed to be, at least in part, on the basis of the knowledge that Cain possessed of the promise. This corresponding with him being made in the image of God and the work of the law being written on his heart (Rom. 2:15), Cain was without excuse (Rom. 1:20).

Matthew Henry comments,

We may believe that God commanded Adam, after the fall, to shed the blood of innocent animals, and after their death to burn part or the whole of their bodies by fire. Thus that punishment which sinners deserve, even the death of the body, and the wrath of God, of which fire is a well-known emblem, and also the sufferings of Christ, were prefigured. Observe that the religious worship of God is no new invention. It was from the beginning; it is the good old way, Jeremiah 6:16.

Henry makes note that, although no explicit revelation was given in Genesis regarding how Adam, and thus his progeny, were to worship, God commanded Adam after the fall to make sacrifice, and this sacrifice prefigured the Redeemer.

But the question remains: did Eve have faith in the coming Redeemer? She had the information. She had the promise. More specifically did she believe that she was bringing forth that Redeemer by the birth of the firstborn, Cain? I believe that an answer to the second question is an answer to the first. Eve had faith in the Redeemer to come. The immediacy of her hope, however, was more distant than she could have ever imagined (Heb. 11:13).

The Data of Gen. 4:1

Genesis 4:1 is the record of the firstborn child of Adam and Eve. The text itself is simple enough yet contains theologically rich material. What I believe we find in this text is the very faith and hope of Eve.

To begin it is worth noting the firstborn’s name. His name is Cain. His name (transliterated qayin) in the simplest terms derives its meaning from the Hebrew word qanah which means to acquire, to possess, to purchase, to recover, or to redeem. It is found in many places in the Old Testament in its different forms. It is used in Gen. 14:19 to signify God’s origination, creation, and possession of the entire cosmos. It is used in Deut. 32:6 to signify the God as the Father or Creator of the people of Israel. In Ex. 15:16 and Ps. 74:2 it signifies God’s redemption or purchasing His people. In one sense it means to subjugate a thing.

Are these just coincidental consistent theological overtones within the analogia fidei? Could the name Cain be an intentional play on words? Could it be that in intention of Eve, by the very name of her son, she had in mind a possession, or an inheritance, or a subjugator – in a word, a serpent crusher?

At the birth of the firstborn Eve exclaims that she had acquired (qaniti) a man. This is significant. The promise of Gen. 3:15 was the promise of a man. “He” was promised to come forth to be the serpent crusher, and “his” heel would be bruised. It is interesting to note the birth of Cain in comparison with the birth of Abel. Eve did not respond the same way at the birth of Abel as she did at the birth of Cain. It simply says that “she gave birth to his brother Abel” (Gen. 4:2). The comment is almost made in passing. It seems, however, that Eve saw in Cain the failing hope that he was the promised Redeemer and because of this named her second son with purpose as well. Abel which means vanity, breath, fleeting, or emptiness seemed to be Eve’s reflection of the failing hope she had in Cain. This is telling.

Later in Gen. 4, after the defect of Cain, Eve exclaims at the birth of Seth, “God has appointed me another offspring (zera, cf. Gen. 3:15) in place of Abel, for Cain killed him.” The close connections of seed, redeemer, inheritor, subjugator, etc. in the theological narrative here are simply too strong to overlook. Eve’s mind was not so soon removed from the promise, even in the light of Cain’s life. Her exclamation at the birth of Seth was proof. One wonders if the birth of a firstborn female to Adam and Eve would have evoked the same reaction.

Eve not only exclaims that she has acquired a man, but that she acquired “a man, with the help of the LORD.” And here we meet with a slight difficulty. Those dealing with the text at this point have two choices. The choice comes down to the meaning of the word transliterated ‘eth (אֶת). Here are the two choices with the disclaimer that I am no Hebrew scholar.

The first choice is to recognize ‘eth as a preposition. If the meaning of ‘eth is to be taken as a preposition then one must supply the phrase the help of since this actual phrase is not in the original and must be contextually implied. Therefore ‘eth would simply mean with at this point. The NASB, ESV, KJV, NKJV, and NET take this route. The LXX takes this route as well.[5] It reads, “Εκτησάμην ἄνθρωπον διὰ τοῦ θεοῦ” (transliterated Ektesamen anthropon dia tou Theou). The use of the preposition dia + the Genitive tou Theou signifies the means by which this happened. It was through the Lord. The NET notes on this passage disclaim the second use below as “a fanciful suggestion [that] is based on a questionable allegorical interpretation of Gen. 3:15.”[6] The NET seems to reject a redemptive historical hermeneutic with regard to Gen. 3:15. Of course with all that has been said up to this point, I heartily disagree with the NET.

The second choice is to recognize ‘eth as an accusative marker. In other words, ‘eth is used to denote the direct object of the verb. If the meaning of ‘eth is to be taken as an accusative marker then the LORD must be the direct object of the verb qaniti (to get, acquire) and not the man, thus rendering an understanding of the verse, “I have gotten a man, the LORD.” It is interesting to note that ‘eth is used two more times in this verse. It is used in conjunction with two other nouns, namely, Eve (‘eth Chavvah) and Cain (‘eth Qayin). Adam knew (verb, yada) Eve (direct object, ‘eth Chavvah). And she birthed (verb, yalad) Cain (‘eth Qayin). In both instances ‘eth is not used as a preposition, but as an accusative marker indicating the direct object of the verb. It seems that the use of ‘eth as a preposition in reference to Eve and Cain would seem to render the sentence unintelligible.

The English translations mentioned above make a switch from using ‘eth as the accusative marker in relation to Eve and Cain to the use of ‘eth as a preposition in relation to Yahweh (‘eth Yhvh). Thus they render the direct object of the verb “acquired” (qaniti) to be “a man” (ish), with (‘eth) the help of the LORD (Yhvh). Again the words “the help of” are implied by translators to make the translation smooth since the Hebrew word help is not in the text.

Some weighty exegetes throughout history have made significant note of this use of ‘eth. The commentators that I interacted with who disagreed with the use of ‘eth as an accusative marker never seemed to disagree on the grounds of syntax, but on the grounds of the impossibility of Eve having any reference to the promise of Gen. 3:15. One commentator called such an exposition “too refined for the time.”[7] One must wonder, as mentioned above, how Abel received the information of his faith if the impossibility of Eve having any reference to the promise were true. How could the very one who received the promise have no reference to it, yet the son of her flesh who had yet to be born at the giving of the promise have faith in it? The question is rhetorical. Here are a few exegetes that affirm the use of ‘eth as an accusative marker and see its use operating within the analogia fidei.

Matthew Poole comments:

From the Lord; or, by or with the Lord, i.e. by virtue of his first blessing, Genesis 1:28, and special favour. Or, a man the Lord, as the words properly signify: q.d. God-man, or the Messias, hoping that this was the promised Seed.

John Trapp comments:

Ver. 1. I have gotten a man from the Lord. Or, that famous man, the Lord; as if she had brought forth the man Christ Jesus. These were words of hope not of substance {verba spei, non rei};

Matthew Henry comments:

Perhaps she thought that this was the promised seed. If so, she was wofully disappointed. Abel signifies vanity: when she thought she had the promised seed in Cain, whose name signifies possession, she was so taken up with him that another son was as vanity to her.

John Gill comments:

I have gotten a man from the Lord; as a gift and blessing from him, as children are; or by him, by his favour and good will; and through his blessing upon her, causing her to conceive and bear and bring forth a son: some render it, “I have gotten a man, the Lord” איש את יהוה “virum Dominum”, Fagius, Helvicus, Forster, Schindler, Luther, Pellican, Cocceius; “virum qui Jehovah est”, Schmidt. ; that promised seed that should break the serpents head; by which it would appear, that she took that seed to be a divine person, the true God, even Jehovah, that should become man; though she must have been ignorant of the mystery of his incarnation, or of his taking flesh of a virgin, since she conceived and bare Cain through her husband’s knowledge of her: however, having imbibed this notion, it is no wonder she should call him Cain, a possession or inheritance; since had this been the case, she had got a goodly one indeed: but in this she was sadly mistaken, he proved not only to be a mere man, but to be a very bad man: the Targum of Jonathan favours this sense, rendering the words,’I have gotten a man, the angel of the Lord.’

Gill’s comments are insightful. He see the fact that Eve had “imbibed this notion” of the promise in the naming of Cain. According to Gill, Cain’s very name was evidence that Eve hoped in the promise of Gen. 3:15. It would seem odd to name her son “a possession” or “inheritance” if there were not some theological milieu from which Cain’s name sprung forth from her mouth in jubilant exclamation.

John Owen, making an observation on Heb. 4:6 and the rest that still remains for the people of God, says:

Obs. 4. 3. Some promises of God, as to their full accomplishment, maybe confined unto some certain time and season, although they may have, and have, their use and benefit in all seasons; and until this is come there can be no failure charged, though they be not fulfilled. Thus was it with the great promise of the coming of Christ before mentioned. It was given out from the foundation of the world, Genesis 3:15, and in the counsel of God confined to a certain period of time, determined afterwards in the prophecies of Jacob, Daniel, Haggai, and otherwise. This all the saints of God were in expectation of from the first giving of the promise itself. Some think that Eve, upon the birth of Cain, — concerning whom she used these words, “I have obtained a man from the LORD,” which they contend should be rendered, “the man the LORD,” — did suppose and hope that the promise of the exhibiting of the blessing Seed was accomplished. And if they looked for him on the nativity of the first man that was born in the world, it is very probable that their hearts were frequently made sick, when their hopes were deferred for four thousand years. See Genesis 5:29; Genesis 49:18, compared with Luke 2:30, Exodus 4:13. And many a time, no doubt, they were ready to call the truth of the promise, and therein the faithfulness of God, into question. Great desires they had, and great expectations, which were frustrated. Hence our Savior tells his disciples, that “many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which they saw, and saw them not,” Matthew 13:17. They desired, hoped, prayed, that the promise might be fulfilled in their days; which yet it was not. Hence our apostle tells us that “these all died in faith, not having received the promise,” Hebrews 11:13; that is, not the accomplishment of it. Yet this their disappointment did not in the least shake the stability of the promise; for although it was not yet actually fulfilled, yet they had benefit from it, yea, life and salvation by it.[8]

Owen’s comments are helpful. Not only does he see a pattern of hope in the promise from the most primitive days on Earth, he also recognizes along with many other commentators that Eve, upon the birth of Cain, “looked for [the Redeemer] on the nativity of the first man that was born in the world.”

Owen also makes reference to Gen. 5:29 which shows Lamech looking for a Redeemer by naming his son Noah. This is a very similar pattern to the exclamation of Eve at the birth of Cain. It is interesting to compare the genealogy listed in Gen. 5 (Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah) with the list of names mentioned in Heb. 11. Could this be a list intentionally selected by Moses to communicate a deep theological truth? It is interesting to note that Seth was not Adam’s only son, yet only Seth is mentioned by name in Gen. 5. It must be asked: why are the specific names mentioned there deliberately picked out of the story line of redemption by Moses when the text clearly says that every single man listed “had other sons and daughters” (Gen. 5:4, 7, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 26, 30)? I believe it is because stock can be put in a name in the story line of redemption, as is evident with Adam, Cain, Seth, Noah, and our Lord (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:21, 23) to name a few. The very name Yahweh lends credence to this fact as well (cf. Gen. 1:1-2:3 and its use of Elohim and Gen. 2:4-25 and its use of Yahweh). Eve in naming her son Cain was no different. The parallel theological structure of Gen. 5 in comparison with Heb. 11 seems to be tracing a line of faith in the Redeemer to come.

The Firstborn Male

Something in passing must be asked and answered regarding the significance of the firstborn male at this point. Why were these godly men and women down through the ages naming their sons, and in some instances their firstborn son, with reference to the promise? Is it because they hoped in the promise? I believe so! “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” (Heb. 11:13,39-40)

Ex. 13:2 gives clear command for the consecration of the firstborn in Israel. This consecration was directly connected to the law of the Passover (Ex. 12:3-11) signifying the salvation of God’s people. The consecration of the firstborn explicitly spelled out by there Moses seems to be based on the rudimentary theology of Gen. 3:15. It was not inconsistent with what was incipient in the promise of Gen. 3:15 and seemed to build upon it by father steps. It also pointed back to the promise of Gen. 3:15.  Simeon knew of this. He knew of the promised Redeemer, the Firstborn, and he hoped in Him. In Lk. 2:30 he saw this promised One, this true Firstborn Son, which all names and ceremonies foreshadowed and he held Him with his very arms. His eyes had seen the salvation of the Lord. With that said, Cain and Noah seem to be at least two pre-Mosaic examples of consecrated firstborn males. Their very names signify this. Their parents were hoping in the promise.

Further, could it be that the hope of rest promised by God in Gen. 2:1-3 (cf. Heb. 4:1-11) is never divorced from the idea of the consecration of the firstborn male to the LORD? This consecration carried on until the true Firstborn, the Seed of the woman, came into the world. Again, Simeon seemed to make this connection and rejoiced. The Redeemer was here. And upon His resurrection, the Firstborn rested from His works, works of redemption, subjugation, and serpent crushing, just as God did from His at creation (Heb. 4:9-10). The Firstborn delighted in His works. The Firstborn was satisfied in His works. The Firstborn was refreshed by His works.[9] What Eve had hoped for in the birth of Cain had finally come in the Lord Jesus Christ!

The Faith and Hope of Eve

I believe all of this to be significant evidence that Eve was a Christian. She hoped in the promised Redeemer to come. I believe her faith would have been operating from the same principle as the faith of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah and Moses. It was faith in the promise. She believed a prior promise, and thought she had birthed it. Sadly, though, she did not birth a Redeemer. She birthed a destroyer. Everything from Gen. 3:15 points to a Redeemer, the One who would bring His posterity to glory, the very thing Adam failed to do. This was the faith and hope of Eve.

 

Deceived by subtle snares of hell,
Adam, our head, our father, fell;
When Satan, in the serpent hid,
Proposed the fruit that God forbid.

Death was the threat’ning: death began
To take possession of the man
His unborn race received the wound,
And heavy curses smote the ground.

But Satan found a worse reward;
Thus saith the vengeance of the Lord
“Let everlasting hatred be
Betwixt the woman’s seed and thee.

“The woman’s seed shall be my Son;
He shall destroy what thou hast done;
Shall break thy head, and only feel
Thy malice raging at his heel.”

He spake; and bid four thousand years
Roll on; at length his Son appears;
Angels with joy descend to earth,
And sing the young Redeemer’s birth.

Lo, by the sons of hell he dies;
But as he hung ‘twixt earth and skies,
He gave their prince a fatal blow,
And triumphed o’er the powers below.[10]

 

[1] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/romans-9.html

[2] Cf. Gen. 3:15 with Gen. 4:26. John Owen, in a sermon on Cain's first born son Enoch, comments, "The state of things at this time in the world was very evil and corrupt, as being far engaged into that condition which, not long after, came unto a universal apostasy, Gen. vi. 5, 11–13. In the days of Enos there had been some reformation attempted, as the children of God by profession had separated themselves from the profane and wicked posterity of Cain, Gen. iv. 26: but at this time the degenerate offspring of Seth, the generality of visible professors, began to mix themselves in society, have communication and practice wickedness with the profane, scoffing, apostate world; an account whereof is given, Gen. vi. 1–4. And as those days were full of sin, so were they full of danger, persecution, and oppression, unto all that feared God. This Enoch in his prophecy expresseth a sense of the “hard speeches,” — that is, revilings and reproaches, — that were cast upon God; that is, on his servants and his ways: and we do know that such things in a multitude of ungodly men, accompanied with power, do not use to go alone. And, besides, the whole earth was then filled with violence and oppression; wherein those who feared God had no doubt the greatest share in suffering." (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/owen/sermons.vi.xv.html)

[3] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/joc/hebrews-11.html

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://www.academic-bible.com/en/online-bibles/septuagint-lxx/read-the-bible-text/bibel/text/lesen/stelle/1/40001/49999/ch/98b041dc65b204e6fc0dc2ddca8c51df/

[6] https://net.bible.org/#!bible/Genesis+4

[7] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/genesis-4.html#1

[8] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/joc/hebrews-4.html

[9] Ibid., See Owen's comments on Heb. 4:9-10.

[10] Isaac Watts, http://www.hymnary.org/text/deceived_by_subtle_snares_of_hell

For some time now I have been thinking through issues relating to ecclesiology, that is the doctrine of the church. Recently I wrote regarding the popular practice of baby dedication in many Baptist churches. In this post I am endeavoring to think through the subject of giving as part of the corporate worship of God’s people. I am not concerned here with whether or not one is to tithe as opposed to giving freely as each man has purposed in his heart (or if there is even an opposition). I am endeavoring to think through whether or not giving is an essential part of the corporate worship of God’s people. Can we relegate the corporate giving of the church to an online bank draft? Can it be relegated to offering box in the foyer separate from the formal time of the corporate gathering of God’s people on God’s Day? Can you just drop it off in the church office? Or is giving essential to the worship of God’s people on God’s Day? In other words is the koinonia, the contribution, of the church a circumstance of worship or an essential part(1)? I am not endeavoring to explain how the church is to give (tithe or freely), but when and where the church is to give. Is there, to borrow from Solomon, a time for every matter under the sun (Ecc. 3:1)?

Let’s face the facts before we get too deep. This sort of thing isn’t on the radar of the modern Christian. In fact it may not even be on your radar, but you’re here right? Hang in there. Christians of a different day thought through these sorts of things. It was crucial for the church to think through how they were to worship God in an acceptable manner, a manner positively prescribed by Him. As God lives, so it remains an important issue today for the church. The issue of giving is no different.

Giving is commanded, therefore giving has rules and regulations. Just as the church should be concerned about how the church gives (i.e., cheerfully), so it should be concerned about the when and where the corporate body gives. Giving is an essential part of worship, just as much as the reading and preaching of the Word and the prayers. The circumstances may vary. But does the church have the freedom to decide whether or not this part of worship is included or excluded from the corporate worship of God’s people? Is the church free to do what they like as a means of fulfilling the command in the New Testament to give? Absolutely not! God has granted us, by His divine power, “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). All of these things can be found in sacred Scripture. Let us now take a brief survey of the biblical precedent for giving as part of the corporate worship of God’s people on God’s Day.

Sacred Time

The careful reader would have noticed that in the preceding paragraphs I used a careful phrase. It was the phrase corporate worship. Here is not the time or place for a full treatment on the doctrine of the Christian Sabbath Day(2). Suffice it to say that the Lord’s Day is just that, the Lord’s. It is distinct from all other days, and on that day very special things happen. One of those special things, and chiefly, is the corporate worship of the church. Carved out of ordinary time is the sacred time of the Lord’s Day, the Christian Sabbath. Within that day, for a length time determined by each assembly, God’s people gather to worship their Lord. Here is a little of how that goes.

Elders, appointed by God, issue the call to worship. This in a formal sense begins the worship of God’s people corporately. Once this sacred corporate time within this sacred day is over, a benediction is issued by an elder, formally concluding the sacred corporate time of worship. What must happen between these two “bookends” of the call to worship and benediction are specifically spelled out by God in His word(3). God gives us the essential parts via His written revelation. Essential parts at this point cannot be missing. Circumstances may vary. If I could represent this in another way it would look something like this:

 Call to Worship>>Singing, The Word, Prayer, Giving, Sacraments<<Benediction

Everything that falls between the call to worship and benediction are specifically spelled out by God. These are the essential parts. Giving is one of those parts. It falls within this sacred time of sacred time, within this holy of holies. Let us now seek the testimony of Scripture regarding giving as a formal part of worship.

Old Testament

The Old Testament lends several texts regarding the giving of tithes and offerings as a part of the formal worship of God.

In the most primitive of texts Cain and Abel in Gen. 4:2-5 bring God offerings in a formal time of worship as instructed by their father Adam. Adam being instructed by God Himself. Abraham in Gen. 14:19-22 along with Melchizedek, after bringing out the bread and wine, offered to God tithes in a formal time of worship. Jacob recognizes in Gen. 28:18-22 that giving in a formal time of worship must be done, as John Gill says, “for the support of his worship; for the maintenance of such that were employed in it; for the provision of sacrifice, and for the relief of the poor, or for any use or service in which God might be glorified”(4). Num. 18:21-32 gives clear instruction to the Levitical priesthood regarding what should be done with the tithes offered in Israel’s formal worship of God. Deut. 12:1-19 makes clear that Israel must seek the sacred place and time that the LORD will choose for them to worship and “there you shall bring…your tithes and the contribution that you present” (v.6). If there were any doubt about the previous text, Deut. 26:1-15 is clear that, “This day the Lord your God commands you to do these statutes and rules” (v.16). Finally Neh. 12:42-47 is yet another example where sacred space and sacred time required sacred offerings. God commanded it and they did it.

Looking back from the New Testament on Old Testament worship, Lk. 21:2-3 also illustrates that giving is a formal part of the worship of God. The rich were putting their gifts in the offering box, and so the widow her mite, during a formal time of corporate worship (cf. Lk. 20:1 with 21:5).

New Testament

The key text to understand giving as part of the corporate worship of the church can be found in Acts 2:42. It reads, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Here we find a reference to the corporate worship of the church and four essential elements of worship, namely the word, giving, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer. Fellowship here is the Greek word koinonia. The meaning of koinonia in the New Testament is in no way ambiguous and well understood by all. In fact it is one of the most common words used in the New Testament for contributory help. Having koinonia is an act of beneficence to contribute to the needs of the church, in a corporate gathering of the church. Later in Acts the church is seen to be giving or sharing by laying their gifts at the Apostle’s feet in corporate worship (Acts 4:35, 37; 5:2). Take koinonia in Acts 2 & 4 to mean an act of giving outside of the corporate gathering of the church and you have robbed the term of its very meaning. How can one have koinonia via a box in a foyer or an online form?

Some further points must be mentioned. Giving is connected with the first day of the week in the New Testament, the day of corporate worship. 1 Cor. 16:1-2 states that on the first day of every week, the Christian Sabbath, the saints gathered for corporate worship are to offer their gifts for other saints in need. Giving is also described as a spiritual sacrifice (Phil. 4:11-20; Heb. 13:16). If it is a spiritual sacrifice it should compose part of the corporate worship of the church. In other words, it should be essential not optional.

If you’re interested in tracing out the Greek in the New Testament see Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 9:13; Heb. 13:16; Rom. 12:13; Gal. 6:6; Phil. 4:15; 1 Tim. 6:18 for further study. These texts have everything to do contextually with giving in corporate worship. Consider Acts 2:44 and the phrase “had all things in common” and Acts 4:32 “common property” both use the same Greek root as Acts 2:42. Also Acts 4:34-35, 37 is described as laying their gifts at the Apostles feet in public worship. In Acts 5:1-2 Ananias and Sapphira do the same thing.

It is clear that sacred space (the place where God’s people are gathered) and sacred time (the time between the call to worship and the benediction) required the sacred offerings of the church. God commanded it and they did it.

A Word on the Confession

A word about the 1689 Baptist Confession of faith regarding this issue may be in order here. Chapter 22 paragraph 3-5 list various parts of worship. Paragraph 5 of the confession states,

The reading of the Scriptures, preaching, and hearing the Word of God, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord; as also the administration of baptism, and the Lord’s supper, are all parts of religious worship of God, to be performed in obedience to him, with understanding, faith, reverence, and godly fear; moreover, solemn humiliation, with fastings, and thanksgivings, upon special occasions, ought to be used in an holy and religious manner.

Paragraph 3 and 4 list prayer as a part of worship. Paragraph 5 lists the things mentioned above as parts. But do you notice something missing? Giving is not in the list. This may sum up the issue for many. But has the reader read carefully?

The confession does not claim to list all the parts of worship. It only claims what it lists as parts. Many may read the wording “are all parts of religious worship” as “are all the parts of religious worship” along with paragraphs 3 and 4. Let me clarify. An engine, a steering wheel, a radio, and a seat are all parts of an automobile. They are not all of the parts of an automobile. Do you see the difference? Prayer (para. 3), the reading of the Scriptures, preaching, and hearing the Word of God, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord; as also the administration of baptism, and the Lord’s supper (para. 4), are all parts of religious worship of God. They are not all of the parts.

With that said we must confess that worship be limited to God’s own revealed will and cannot be expanded by additions from “good and necessary inference.” I realize that good men differ on their understanding of all of this. The above examination of the Old and New Testaments are commended to the reader for what I believe to be a clear command and example in scripture of giving in worship.

Conclusion

If the conclusions above are correct, and I believe they are, then one could rightly conclude that to exclude koinonia from the sacred corporate time of the church would be to neglect an essential part of the worship of God. Can we say corporate worship contains the elements prescribed by God if we leave out the element of giving as a corporate body? May the church do what it wishes with this essential part? If so, is it at liberty to do the same with the other essential parts? May it never be!

The Scriptures provide for the church everything needed for both life and godliness. It provides guidelines for when and where the church is to approach God corporately to give back to the One who has richly given to it. May the church approach God in spirit and in truth as we seek to have koinonia with one another (Jn. 4:24).


(1) Circumstances for giving as part of the corporate worship of the church could be things such as whether or not a plate is passed, or the congregation lines up and presents their offerings to the Lord in a box up front. For an introduction to, though not exhaustive treatment of, the distinction between the parts and circumstances of corporate worship you can read a previous blog entitled Baby Dedications: Are They For The Church Today?. For a more extensive treatment you can read the ARBCA position paper on the regulative principle of the church.

(2) If you are interested in reading more on the subject here are some starters: 1- Joseph Pipa, The Lord's Day, 2- Walter Chantry, Calling the Sabbath a Delight, 3- John Owen, A Treatise on the Sabbath, 4- Samuel Bolton, The True Bounds of Christian Freedom

(3) Not only are the things within the "bookends" regulated by God, the entire day is: The sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all day, from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations, but are also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.(Isaiah 58:13; Nehemiah 13:15-22; Matthew 12:1-13) 1689 LBC Ch. 22, Par. 8.

(4) John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible, http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/genesis-28-22.html

Much thanks to Dr. Sam Waldron, Dean of Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, for his excellent course on the doctrine of the church, from which the meat of the material written above was taken.

Revised 6.15.2016

He was born in a borrowed manger.

He preached from a borrowed boat.

He rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey.

He ate Supper in a borrowed room.

He was crucified on a borrowed cross.

He was buried in a borrowed tomb.

The life of the God-man was a life of humility and meekness. In one word, He was lowly. The religion of Christianity is, most basically and most simply, a religion for the lowly. It is for the lowly in heart. It is for those who humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, repent, and believe. But in some sense it is also a religion for the materially poor.

The Gospel’s paint a picture for us of the meagerness of Christ, and His earthly parents. Joseph and Mary, as believers in the promised One to come, took the Lord to the temple according to the law. Lev. 12:1-8 gives the background for what was going on. It was the law of purification after childbirth. Mary was to offer a sacrifice to the Lord and offer the firstborn male as holy to the Lord. The sacrifice she was to offer is as follows.

When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering. He shall offer them before the Lord to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood. These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl. But if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean. (Lev. 12:6-8)

The themes of purification, offering, sacrifice, and atonement are glaring.

Lk. 2:22-24 gives us the details of the day.

And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord [Ex. 13:12]”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”

The law gave Mary three options for an offering – a lamb with a young pigeon or dove, or two doves, or two young pigeons. But there’s something you may have missed.

The provision in the law of Moses for two turtle doves or two pigeons was a pauper’s provision. It was a poor man’s way of approaching God sacrificially. What is a pigeon, what is a turtledove, but a common bird found in the wild? This offering by Mary was none other than a poor man’s offering. Mary’s offering was a sign to all that she was destitute. She had nothing more to offer than a common wild bird. But when a person offers God their heart, it does not matter what little may be in their hand.

We must not lose sight of the fact that our Lord’s life was marked by humility. From birth he was born into meager circumstances. His dedication at the temple was consecrated by a poor man’s offering. He grew up eating at a poor man’s table and slept in a poor man’s bed. He worked a poor man’s job. Would he not share in a poor man’s woes as well?

But it is no coincidence that our Savior “became poor” (2 Cor. 8:9). It is also no coincidence that scripture is full of warnings about the deceitfulness of riches. The heart cry of a wise man to God is “give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion” (Prov. 30:8). But the Lord, though possessing the very molecules of the universe, for by Him all things were created and are upheld by the word of His power, laid His rights aside to take up the mantle of the poor (Phil. 2:7). He laid aside the prerogatives of exaltation and took up the prerogatives of humiliation. He was born in the likeness of men, and poor men at that. Deity took on flesh. Oh, mystery of mysteries! But, what comfort! What consolation! What hope! What courage! What a stooping down of the God-man to take up the cause of dust.

The consolations of the poor in the face of these facts are as boundless as the riches of Christ. There is really no room for complaint. We have in heaven a mediator who knows firsthand what it is to be poor.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:14-16)

James Smith once wrote,

If God is my portion, then I ought to be content without any other portion. He is . . .
enough in poverty,
enough in persecution,
enough in life,
enough in death,
enough for evermore!

But be warned you who are rich! The one who trusts in his riches, has his portion in this life. But God is the portion of His people, and He is theirs forevermore (Deut. 32:9; Ps. 119:57).

Hallelujah! Christ is the poor man’s friend and He is enough.