Useful Bible Studies > Hebrews Commentary > chapter 11

The faith of Abel

Hebrews 11:4

Here, the author begins to show us faith (active belief and trust) in the Old Testament (the first 39 books in the Bible). He begins with the account of Cain and his brother Abel, in Genesis 4:1-8. And he helps to explain something that many people consider difficult in that passage.

Both Cain and Abel gave gifts to God. Cain offered some fruit that he had grown. Abel offered the first and best of his young sheep, which he had killed. God approved of Abelís gift, but not Cainís gift. This made Cain angry, so Cain killed Abel.

The problem is this. It seems hard to understand why God did not accept both gifts. The Book of Genesis does not explain why. But the author of Hebrews gives an answer. Abel offered his gift with faith, and Cain did not.

Let us think about that. Cain did not have faith. He was not actively believing and trusting God. Instead, Cain thought that God should approve of his (Cainís) work. So he offered something that he himself had produced by his work. And he was angry when God did not approve.

Like Abel, Cain knew that sin (evil deeds) had entered the world. He knew that he himself was guilty of bad and evil things. But he chose not to ask God to save him. Instead, he wanted God to approve of the things that he was doing.

But Abel had faith. So he saw that he must trust God to save him. Abel knew that he too was guilty of wrong things. And he believed that he deserved to die because of those wrong things. But Abel asked God to accept the death of an animal instead of his own death. He did not know that Jesus would die to suffer the punishment for our evil deeds. But Abel did what he could do. He saw how to offer something that God considers valuable. He offered his gift with faith. And God approved of that gift. God always approves when we have faith in him (Hebrews 11:6).

God said that Abelís blood still speaks (Genesis 4:10; Hebrews 12:24). In other words, it still gives a message. It appeals to God to act as judge. He should punish evil people and he should save his people. Abel appealed for that by faith. In other words, he trusted God to do these things. And still we trust God to do these things. His work as judge is not yet complete. So we must have faith that he will complete his work. He has promised to do it (Revelation chapter 20).

Next part: The faith of Enoch (Hebrews 11:5)

 

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© 2014, Keith Simons.