Gospel Faith in the Old Testament: Abel

Gospel Faith in the Old Testament: Abel

Hebrews 11:4

Faith and Worship

Hebrews shows the link between faith, hope, obedience and perseverance, illustrating that it (faith) is more than intellectual agreement with certain beliefs. God-honoring faith takes God at his word and lives expectantly and obediently in the present, waiting for him to fulfill his promises.

The actions of the Old Testament saints show that faith pleases God and that he rewards all who seek him.[1]

It is not long after the fall until the death and destruction chosen by Adam and Eve begin to play themselves out in the text of Scripture.

Obviously, Adam and Eve have taught their boys about the Lord and what they remember about the Lord and what they do to honor the Lord and worship him.

Cain and Abel then come to offer their worship.

What is interesting to notice is that as they are worshiping there is more in play than the external sacrifice and worship atmosphere.

The Lord rejects Cain’s offering and accepts Abel’s.

Abel’s faith was expressed when he offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. The difference was not in the substance of the sacrifices (Gn. 4:3–4), but in the attitude of the two brothers (as implied in Gn. 4:4–7).

Cain was told that his offering would be acceptable if he did what was right (cf. Pr. 15:8). But God testified to the righteousness of Abel and to the faith that motivated him when he spoke well of his offerings. Abel still speaks in the sense that he witnesses to the faith that pleases God. [2]

Genesis 4:3–7 and the rest of the Old Testament do not explain why Abel’s offering was more acceptable than Cain’s.

Hebrews offers the explanation: Abel showed faith. The fact that God accepted Abel’s sacrifice showed that he had an obedient attitude.

In some way Cain held back from God, perhaps in his heart.

Abel’s offering was an unrestrained response to Father, complete with unrestrained worship, which pleased God. John tells us that Cain’s works were evil, while those of Abel were righteous (1 John 3:12).

Even though Cain murdered Abel, the faith of Abel still spoke over the centuries. Even a violent death could not muzzle the message of faith.[3]

What was the source of the evil deeds of Cain?


“Sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

Adam and Eve, our parents, introduced sin/rebellion into the Lord’s image bearers and the created order and death reigned as the Lord said it would.

Sin/rebellion, however, are never satisfied. Sin has an insatiable appetite.

“Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man.” (Proverbs 27:20 ESV)

Sin/rebellion are always seeking their destructive ends.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 ESV)

The word “desire” is used in Genesis 4:7 and is the same word used in Genesis 3:16 when the Lord is speaking to Eve about the results of sin on her.

Her “desire” (to stretch out after) would be against here husband.

The word “for” there is properly translated as “for”.

Some of your translations may have a footnote saying “Or against” for clarifying purposes.

They don’t want you thinking the desire is a good thing. It’s not.

The reason is that this desire is not a holy desire. This desire is an evil desire. It’s sin. The sinful result of the fall for women is that they will be tempted to work against him, take his headship.

For Cain, sin/rebellion was crouching, waiting to pounce on him and its desire is “for” him.

Not in the since that sin is rooting for him to succeed. But sin’s desire is “for” Cain in the sense of it is working for him to disbelieve the Lord and thus be evil.

Satan uses the infection of sin/rebellion to steal, kill and destroy and we find that the first worship service we see after the fall is tainted with faithless evil.

That is a big statement.

Again, 1 John 3:12 “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.”

With saying nothing more in the text, we learn that Cain did the external act but that this external act was rotten from the inside out because it was done in sin and not in faith and the Lord knew it.

This shows that the first place faith is lived out is in the context of worship for that is what we were made for. We were made to glory in our creator and do all things to his great praise.

No wonder the first scene we see post fall is a worship service tainted with sin and evil.

No wonder so many people fight over peripheral issues about worship. It’s a scheme of the evil one.

So, how doe’s Abel faith in worship encourage us to Gospel faith in worship?

1. Faith Says: Worship is not bound in the external expression but in the internal faith that this is no waste of time

(the external expression does matter missiologically, but that is not the context of our talk)

The faith of Abel seems to be shown somewhat in the wording of the text that is different in describing what Abel brought compared to what Cain brought.

Abel brought the first of his herds. Cain brought some of the produce of the ground. Again, the point is not the substance of their sacrifices but the faith behind what they brought which works itself out into the quality of what they brought.

First of compared to some of.

It seems that faith in the Lord brings it’s best for the Lord.

I get this feel from the wording that Abel prepared to meet with the Lord because he wanted to and Cain hustled together some leftovers because he had to.


Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”


There is something about the context of comfort in the west that makes worship a consumable commodity and not a necessary time of encouragement just to make it another day and not give up.


There is something about the west that makes the gathering of brothers and sisters together in faith optional next to other “things” considered more vital.


There is something about being around “Christianity” all the time that makes us in the west numb to our need to gather with people who really are transformed by the Gospel and find the encouragement to keep on being faithful when so much would tempt one to just go back.


There is something about the west that makes gathering with groups of like-minded folk in small groups or on Sundays unnecessary in our minds and souls.


I would argue it is because we have replaced faith with pragmatism.


Rather than saying “I brought the Triune God of the universe the best of my soul today” we say, “I got something out of that” or “I got nothing out of that” or “this resulted from what I did today”.


2. Faith Says: Worship is for Father, Son and Spirit and any benefit to me is grace

                        A. Worship is for God not for people (not consumer friendly)


B. Worship can be a means of grace in that we are encouraged

by the Spirit and other people as we bring our best to the Lord


3. Faith Says: I am commended as righteous by Father through faith working through worship

A. Commended  (Passive) – “martureo” – to present officially, to bear witness to

1. Father counted Abel righteous through faith working through his


a. Gospel faith was present through repentance and trust

2. Father was witnessing to Abel’s faith by accepting his sacrifice

a. Gospel acceptance in Christ was present through the same repentance and trust

4. Faith Says: My entire life is to be an act of worship

A. Gospel Faith cannot exist where fire insurance exists (its doubled minded)

1. Jesus is worth more than a “just in case” proposition

B. Gospel Faith gives the best of one’s resources (money, time, effort, energy)

1. Giving is a matter of trust that the treasure of the Kingdom is

greater than the treasures of purchase power

C. Gospel Faith cannot be silenced

1. Though Cain killed the body, the soul lives on and the testimony of Father’s commendation of Abel cannot be extinguished

a. Abel’s faith still speaks because Father commended him





1. Guard faith

Faith is often the target of the enemy.

“For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.” (1 Thessalonians 3:5 ESV)

A. Take the shield of faith

“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;” (Ephesians 6:16 ESV)


2. Do not forsake the gathering of believers


3. Test yourself to make sure your mind’s attention and heart’s affection are focused on the Lord and not you or any other


4. Set your thoughts and emotions on the fact that by faith you are right and accepted by Father through faith in the Son and guaranteed by the indwelling Spirit


5. Be a giver not a taker


6. Build a legacy of faith that cannot be silenced even when you die

A. So many men live for now and leave death and destruction in their wake.

B. Live so that your kids and all those who come behind them imitate your faith


[1] Thomas D. Lea, vol. 10, Hebrews, James, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 200.

cf. compare

[2] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Heb 11:1–40.

[3] Thomas D. Lea, vol. 10, Hebrews, James, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 200-01.

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