Abel: How to Live a Life That Still Speaks
Hebrews • Sermon • Submitted • Presented • 21:48
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Our Scripture Lesson this morning is Hebrews 11:1-4:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.
What will people say about your faith after you die? Decades after your death, will the people you know still be talking about your faith in Christ? This morning’s sermon topic is How to Live a Life That Still Speaks.
As we begin our tour through the Great Hall of Faith, the first Faith Hero we meet is Abel. He is a Biblical figure often overlooked, but he was a critical figure in God’s redemptive story. Abel was the first martyr. In fact, he was the first believer to die. Consequently, his was the first human soul to enter heaven! Can you image the awe and amazement among the angels as a former sinner, enters into heaven clothed with the righteousness of Christ? No wonder the author of Hebrews says Abel’s blood still speaks. He is forever a testimony of the righteousness that comes by faith in Christ’s blood!
But more important than this, he was the first human being to hear from God’s lips, “Well done good and faithful servant!” He was the first believer commended by God for his faith according to verse 4.
What a contrast Cain is from his brother. As the murderer of Abel, he was the first persecutor of Christ and His church. He did this because he was the first apostate, the first hypocrite who offered both a false profession of faith and false worship. He was in fact, the first antichrist!
To understand what made Abel’s faith so commendable and what can make your faith commendable we need to compare and contrast these two men and their way of approaching God. Let turn in our Bibles and read once again the story of Cain and Abel.
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.”
How Cain and Abel Were the Same
How Cain and Abel Were the Same
The first thing we learn about Cain and Abel is they had the same parents: Adam and Eve. This leads to the second way they were the same:
They were both sinners. This is very important to understand. The author of Hebrews does not say Able was more acceptable than Cain, but rather his sacrifice was more acceptable. We are all sinners in the sight of God. As the Lord’s brother James says, “To break one commandment, is to break them all.” Many people make the mistake of thinking they can make themselves acceptable to God by their good deeds. As we will see this was Cain’s mistake, but the reality is that sin is so serious that even the smallest sin outweighs all the good we could possibly do.
The third, and final way these two men were the same was that they heard the same Word. Both had heard the Gospel preached to them by their father Adam. You might be surprised that I said they had the Gospel preached to them, for the full revelation of the Gospel did not happen until Christ had established the New Covenant thousands of years later. However, at this early stage of human history, God had already revealed the basic outline of the Gospel. In Genesis 3 we learn that after Adam and Eve sinned God gave to them the promise of the coming Seed who would crush Satan’s head (Gen 3:15) and then in Genesis 3:21, God established animal sacrifices as a way of atoning and covering human sin. Now if you remember, the author of Hebrews has already taught us that animal sacrifices in and of themselves do not atone for human sin (Heb 10:4). However, these animal sacrifices did point to the sacrifice that does atone for human sin and does cover the shame of our guilt—this is Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. So, the animal sacrifices Adam and Eve were taught to make pointed to Christ.
Granted, this first revelation of the Gospel was very rudimentary, Adam and Eve truly were looking in faith at the Promises from “afar,” but it was enough. By looking in faith to the coming “Promised One” and making animal sacrifices they became partakers with us in Christ. Unquestionably, Cain and Abel witnessed their father Adam make blood sacrifices for his family and surely Adam retold his sons what God said and did on that fateful day. In so doing, he preached the Gospel to his sons.
It is in their response to God’s Word that the differences between these two men are seen.
How Cain and Abel Were Different
How Cain and Abel Were Different
Hebrews 11:4 says Abel “offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice”. What made his sacrifice better?
Some suggest that it was because Abel offered his sacrifice in belief and Cain in unbelief. There is certainly truth to this statement that we want to affirm. Proverbs 15:8 says;
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.
Yet both Genesis 4 and Hebrews 11:4 stress the difference in the TYPE of sacrifice—saying Abel offered a MORE ACCEPTABLE sacrifice.
At first glance, it might seem to some of you that God was unfair to Cain. The Genesis account clearly says that “Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground.” Wouldn’t an acceptable way of showing ones love and devotion to God be to bring the fruit of one’s labor as a sacrificial offering to God? And were there not grain offerings in the Old Covenant established years later under Moses?
Well for one thing, the grain offerings under the Old Covenant were Thank Offerings, NOT offerings of Atonement. As the author of Hebrews has been teaching us “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Heb 9:22) Moreover, even the Thank Offerings were a testimony of what God has giving us, NOT what we are giving God!
So, we see that the first way Cain and Abel were different was that Abel believed and obeyed God’s Word and Cain did not. We often heard people say in our society, “It doesn’t matter what a person believes as long as they are sincere.” Perhaps it doesn’t matter to our society, but it matters to God! Hundreds of years later God, through the prophet Samuel said this to King Saul when he offered an unacceptable sacrifice...
And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.
The second way they differed was Abel looked to Christ for his salvation and Cain looked to himself. The lamb that Abel offered was not pointing to the fruit of Abel’s labors, it was pointing to the “Promised One” who was Christ. Cain, on the other hand, rejected Christ as the way of salvation. He thought he had a better way of atoning for sin—offering to God the fruit of his hands.
There are really only two religions in the world. The true religion that places faith in the work of Christ or false religion that places faith in one’s own work. This was the difference between the Pharisees and the Apostles. This was the difference between Rome and the Reformers. This is still the difference between true Christians and false Christians.
This leads us to the final and most important point:
Who Are You Like, Cain or Abel?
Who Are You Like, Cain or Abel?
The book of Genesis tells us that after Adam and Eve sinned He place cherubim with flaming swords to guard the gate into the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Life. Based on the fact that the curtains of the Tabernacle had cherubim woven into them, many commentators believe that Adam would return to this gate and offer his blood sacrifices just as the priest would do years later before the curtains of the Tabernacle. If this was the case, this is probably where Cain and Abel offered their sacrifices as well.
There is no way of knowing whether or not this is indeed what happened, there is a day when every person will stand before the cherubim of God that guard the way into God’s Heavenly Temple and the Tree of Life that now grows there. When you stand before that gate on the day that you die what will you offer? Will you be like Cain offering the fruit of your labors or will you be like Abel offering the fruit of Christ’s labors? As I said earlier, Abel was the first human being granted entrance into that Heavenly Temple.
If you are like Cain, you will be in for a bitter surprise on that day. In this world you look like Cinderella at the Prince’s Ball. Everyone thinks you are one of the most pious and godly persons they have ever meet, but on that Day when you stand before the cherubim of God, you will be like Cinderella when the clock struck midnight. On that Day, the whole universe will see that you are clothed in nothing but filthy rags! If this is you repent before it is too late. Let Jesus alone be your sacrifice and righteousness.
Let’s pray. Father, as we go to the Table, we only ask you would help us to recognize the wondrous nature of this offering. We ask as we take the bread and the cup that we’ll realize what this is. This is the way we can go to you and no longer wonder whether you love us. This is the way we can get the commendation. This is the way we can know we’re approved by you. This is where we get our life of power, for if we know we’re your children, then let all hell break loose. It matters not. Thy loving-kindness is better than life. Help us all to know that, we ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.