Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 10, 1969
NUMBER 10, PAGE 4-5a

The Faith Of Abel


The Old Testament is a storehouse of treasure. Its pages are filled with romance, adventure and intrigue. But it is also filled with some very practical applications of Biblical principles by which we are to live in the New Testament age. This is why the Old Testament has been preserved for our profit, as Paul indicated in Romans 15:4: "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the scriptures we might have hope."

Abel, son of Adam and brother of Cain, is an Old Testament personality about whom we have little information, yet the information we have is quite revealing and thus worthy of our consideration. In Hebrews 11:4 the writer states: "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had witness borne to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness in respect of his gifts: and through it he being dead yet speaketh." Here is recorded a great compliment, and whenever the Supreme Being speaks so highly of a man, and gives him particular mention in the Holy Scriptures, it commands our attention. Thus Abel "speaks" to us even in this manner. He also speaks to us through example. It is often true that one's example wields great influence even after death — yea, even greater than while living. Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy are two such examples. So it is with Abel. "And I heard a voice from heaven saying, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them." (Rev. 14:13) The story of Abel's works is recorded in Genesis 4:1-16.

The salient points of Abel's story are at least four: (1) the respective sacrifices, (2) the source of faith, (3) the witness borne to Abel, and (4) the consequences to each. Let us briefly consider them in that order.

THE RESPECTIVE SACRIFICE. We know absolutely nothing concerning the commands given to Cain and Abel with respect to their sacrifices, so to try and say why one was accepted and the other not is pure speculation. Some maintain that the difference was that Cain offered Fruit, and Abel offered an Animal. This is reasoned because of the great emphasis placed on animal sacrifices in the Law of Moses. But we know that fruit was used at times (Ex. 22:29; Lev. 23:39-40). The Bible simply indicates that one sacrifice was with faith and the other sacrifice was without faith.

THE SOURCE OF FAITH. "So belief (faith) cometh of hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ" (Rom. 10:17). This clear statement of fact needs to be understood by all, for it points us to the Word of God as the only true source of true faith. Abel's conviction was based upon evidence, not opinion, emotion, human philosophy, tradition, parental influence, etc. So many today, when confronted with a discrepancy between their practices and Bible teaching, preface their remarks in reply with, "Well, I know that's what the Bible says, but I believe...I feel...It me...But my preacher says...etc." But such statements do not reflect a respect for the Word of God, the source of faith.

Cain could sin only by transgression of the Law, the Word of God, whether oral or written. "...but where there is no law, neither is there transgression" (Rom. 4:15). "Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness" (I John 3:4). "...and not as Cain was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his works were evil, and his brother's righteous" (I John 3:12). These statements being true, in order for Cain to have sinned, there had to be a law given. We must remember that there are more ways than one to break God's law: (1) doing the forbidden, (2) not doing the commanded, (3) adding to, (4) subtracting from, and (5) substituting.

Just as Cain could sin only by violating the law in some manner, likewise Abel could be righteous only in following the Law of God (Rom. 10:17). Note the example of Abraham, whose life is used to prove that "faith apart from works is barren. Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar? Thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect; and the scripture was fulfilled which saith, And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God. Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith" (James 2:20-24). The source of Abraham's faith was the Word of God, and he demonstrated his faith by his works — and obedience. Otherwise his faith was dead and barren.

THE WITNESS BORNE TO ABEL. "Through which" (referring back to Heb. 11:4) refers to the sacrifice — through the offering of what God commanded. It is evident that both Cain and Abel believed in God, and thus in a sense had faith in God. Therefore, God did not bear witness to Abel because of faith only. Rather, God bore witness to Abel because his faith led to complete obedience (James 2:14-18).

THE CONSEQUENCE TO EACH. Cain's sacrifice meant possibly convenience in the ease of preparation of his offering. The appeal of convenience is strong, and more than once has led God's people astray, as in I Kings 12 where King Rehoboam persuaded the people it was too far to go to worship in Jerusalem, and substituted the more convenient cities of Dan and Bethel. But Cain's sacrifice also brought sin because he "did not well." Convenience overruled command, and the sin brought spiritual death, for we read that Cain was driven out from the presence of the Lord (Gen. 4:14). Isaiah recorded the fact that it is our iniquities that separate us from God and thus bring spiritual death (Isa. 59:1-2).

Abel's sacrifice possibly was inconvenient when we consider all that was involved in the preparation and offering of an animal sacrifice. It also caused alienation from family, as his brother turned on him. (Christ promised the same might come to us today Matt. 10:21, 34-38),It even brought .him physical death, which also is a possibility for the followers of Christ (Luke 12:4-5). But above all, Abel's obedient faith brought him the reward of righteousness which the Lord imputed to him, and with it the promise of life. "He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it" (Matt. 10:39). And it brought with it a memorial in God's book.

This was written for our learning, so let us learn from it and profit. Without faith we cannot please God (Heb. 11:6). This faith must come from hearing the Word of God — not from feelings, philosophy, creeds of men, etc,. (Rom. 10:17). This faith that pleases God is an obedient faith — "by faith Abel offered..." From what we have learned, we must conclude that obedient faith is not always the easiest route (Matt. 7:13-14), but it is the only route (John 14:6).

What kind of faith do you have? The faith of Cain, or the faith of Abel?

— Jefferson David Tant