The Book of Hebrews #48 chapter 11:4
The Book of Hebrews
Abel: A Primitive Faith
Hebrews 11:4
 
As the writer of Hebrews tries to convince this Jewish audience to accept Christ, he uses an Old Testament quote.  It’s found at the end of chapter 10 in verse 38.  “The just shall live by faith”. That literally translates as “My righteous ones shall live by faith.”  Now we tend to think of that in New Testament terms, but we need to remember that thought is not exclusive to the New Testament.
 
Obviously it finds its ultimate fulfillment in the New Testament, but it has always been God’s requirement that the just live by faith.  God has never accepted human works as satisfactory.  It has always required us trusting God to supply what is needed for us to be right with Him.
 
So the writer offers this quote about the just living by faith, follows that up with a definition of faith, which we studied last week, then provides illustration after illustration through Old Testament heroes of the faith of what he’s talking about.  
 
First on the list is Abel.
 
verse 4
 
Now keep in mind, the whole point of the chapter is to let the Jewish people know that salvation by faith is not something new.  In fact, it goes all the way back to Abel. He is the first one who exercised faith in this way.
 
You say, “What about Adam and Eve?” Well Adam and Eve aren't examples of faith because they had the privilege before the fall of sight. You remember it says in 2 Corinthians 5 that we walk by faith and not by sight, but the fact of the matter is that Adam and Eve walked by sight. They walked and talked with God in the cool of the day. They had the presence of God, the Shekinah glory of God with them in the Garden.
 
Abel, on the other hand, was conceived and born outside Eden after the Fall. And since his family was expelled from the presence of God, he himself was raised in that expelled situation. As far as we know, he had not seen a manifestation of the invisible God. Adam and Eve had seen and believed and I believe were saved, Abel had not seen and yet believed and that is why Abel is the first on the list of faith examples.
 
Now in verse 4, there are three progressive identifications here that are tied to Abel as a man of faith.
 
First,
 
1. He Offered a Better Sacrifice
 
The details of what Hebrews is talking about are found in Genesis 4 and I trust you are familiar with the details and the lesson is very straightforward. 
 
Adam and Eve have two sons, Cain and Abel, in that order, and remember this is post-Garden of Eden.
Now, I think it highly likely in the mind of Eve, she thought Cain, the first-born son was the Promised One who would crush the head of Satan.
After all, God said Someone would come to do that.  She has a son, and names him Cain, meaning, “I have gotten a man child”.
 
Unfortunately, Cain turned out to be, not the Savior, but the first criminal. Eventually, Abel is born.
 
We are told Abel was a keeper of flocks. Cain, on the other hand, was a tiller of the ground. So we could conclude one was in animal husbandry, the other was in farming.
 
One day, they went to church.  Cain, we are told, brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel brought an animal sacrifice.  And we are told God accepted the offering of Abel, but not of Cain.
 
Now the testimony of Hebrews chapter 11 and verse 4 is that Abel is a model of faith. Now, I think it important to note, we have very little detail about Abel, and yet he is an example of fiath.  That means what we need to know is provided in the few details we have.
 
Abel gives us an example of an obedient act of faith.   He comes to worship God and he worships appropriately, demonstrating faith. That is what Hebrews 11:4 says, he by faith offered a better sacrifice.
 
Why was it better?  First, there was a place where God was to be worshiped.
 
We are told they brought an offering to the Lord.  I think that implies there had to have been a place identified for them to bring the offerings.
Where exactly is this place? We don't know. But God has established a place.
 
It is interesting that there was also a time for worship. Genesis 4:3 gives a very specific phrase, “It came about in the course of time...at the end of days.” Perhaps it was the end of a certain week or the end of a certain month a certain set day for atonement to be made. God is a God of order. And apparently He had prescribed a specific period of time for them to come to the Mercy Seat, to the place where they would meet God and offer their sacrifices.
 
So, there is a place and there is a time and there is a way. There is a way to worship. Abel understood the way and obeyed it. On his part in verse 4, he brought the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions and the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering.
 
On the other hand, Cain, according to verse 3, had brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground and God didn’t accept it.  Do you know why?  It wasn’t what God required.
 
These two sons of Adam and Even had been definitely instructed that there was a place and there was a time and there was a way. How would Abel have known to bring an animal sacrifice if it had not been revealed? And why was Cain rejected when he brought other than that if it was not an act of self-will and disobedience? Neither Cain nor Abel could have known anything about sacrifice unless God had revealed that to them.
 
And when Hebrews 11:4 says, “By faith Abel offered an acceptable sacrifice,” faith in what? Faith in the revelation of God. Faith comes by hearing, does it not? You believe what God has said.
 
This is the faith that says, “I have heard God speak and I believe it is true and I will obey.” It was not a whim. It was not a self-styled sacrifice. He had been told by God that God required a sacrifice. He believed that and he evidenced his faith by obeying God's revealed will. And that is why he is a model of faith. He heard the truth, he believed the truth, he obeyed the truth. He worshiped the way God had ordained worship to be done.
 
The first thing we learn about Abel is that he brought a more excellent sacrifice because it was what God required.  There’s a lot more that needs to be said about that, but we’ll move on.
 
The second thing we learn about in Hebrews 11 verse 4 is that
 
2. God Testified that He was Righteous
 
And this is so very foundational in the gospel because it is when we come to Christ who is our sacrifice, when we recognize that we are sinners and that Jesus paid in full the penalty for our sin and we embrace that by faith, we believe that and we act on that, and, as it were, we come to the altar and embrace the sacrifice of Christ as our own sacrifice, being offered to God, it is at that moment that God gives testimony that we are then declared righteous. And that is exactly what happened.
 
Hebrews tells us he offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain and by doing that he obtained witness that he was righteous. Who witnessed it?  Who’s testimony is tit that Abel was righteous?  This is God testifying about his righteousness.
 
And notice it is God testifying of his gifts, plural.  s. That indicates there were more than one. Maybe there was more than one such occasion of such offerings. That would make sense, wouldn't it? Since the only single sacrifice that satisfied God was the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ. Every other sacrifice had to be repeated and repeated and repeated.
 
God did not respect Abel for what was in Abel. God did not respect Abel because there was something personally attractive about him. God respected Abel because of his offering, because he believed God's revelation about the necessary blood sacrifice.
 
Abel was as much a sinner as Cain. He was as liable to eternal judgment as Cain. But he believed God, he obeyed God and that faith was counted to him for righteousness. And here you have the first time that we have a record in Scripture of righteousness being credited to the account of an obedient sinner.
 
This is such a monumental thing. It is credited to his account. God gives testimony that this man, Abel, has attained righteousness. His act, an act of faith, was an act which brought a very righteousness of God to cover him. It is the foundation of the doctrine of justification. Abel honored God, brought the right sacrifice. God honored Abel, imputed righteousness to him. Imagine having God give testimony that you are righteous.
 
And I think in a roundabout way, the writer of Hebrews was saying, “If you've put your trust, not in an animal sacrifice like Abel did because that was what God designed for then, but if you put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice, God will give open testimony that you are now righteous. He will impute His righteousness to you, credit it to your account, cover you with the very robe of His own righteousness as Isaiah put it.”
 
So, first of all, he offered the right sacrifice. Secondly then, he is credited with righteousness.
 
Third,
 
3. He Is a Preacher of the Necessity of Faith
 
“though he's dead, he still speaks.”
 
In what sense does he speak? He speaks to us about the necessity of faith, believing God. I guess the irony is this. Cain thought that he had silenced his brother.  But he hadn't. In fact, his brother's blood was speaking and it was speaking to God. So there is a sense in which Abel is even a preacher of judgment. Abel's blood is crying out to God for vengeance. Abel warns us that there is an avenger.
 
And then he speaks to men, to all who read his story and it's a three-point sermon. If you want to come to God, you come only by faith in His Word and obedience to what He asks and not by your own works. That's point one. You come by faith which means, point two, you can't ignore what God has said. You have to believe it and act upon it.
 
Thirdly, you have to recognize the need for sacrifice to cover your sin. Though dead, Abel is a preacher. As I said, it's a sermon by a dead man.
 
The preacher of a timeless sermon declares  the just shall live by faith and those who try to come to God in any other way will be destroyed.
 
Let's pray.

 

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