Study Notes

Hebrews 11:4-4


We are in Hebrews 11, known as the "Hall of Faith." After having seen faith defined in the first three verses, we now begin a lengthy list of men and women who found approval in God's sight by their faith. First on the roster is a man named Abel.

11:4 Adam And Eve's Sin

To understand the Biblical setting in which Abel was, we must go back a generation to his parents. (That is as far back as we could go anyway, since there had only been a single generation before him!)

We read in the book of Genesis that God created a man and woman, naming them Adam and Eve. He put them in a garden in Eden, and established a single rule:

Gen. 2:16-17 ..."From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die."

But then the devil tempted Eve to eat from that tree, and she did. Then Adam did.

Gen. 3:7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

Then Adam and Eve tried to hide themselves from God, but He of course knew what had happened. For their disobedience, the Lord cursed the creation. Man had brought sin into the world. But God still loved them. We read,

Gen. 3:21 And the LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

Although they were clothed by the Lord, they had to also be cast out. They were sent out of the garden of Eden, never to return.

Cain And Abel

Life was difficult after that, but it did go on. Eve gave birth to two sons, named Cain and Abel.

When they grew, the sons began to work at jobs. Cain farmed the ground, and Abel kept flocks of animals.

Earlier, there had been no need for these jobs. Before the curse, God had planted the garden, and caused every tree to grow. But once sin entered in, the Lord said,

Gen. 3:17-18 ...Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you shall eat the plants of the field

This meant that farming became a full-time occupation! This job fell to Cain.

Now, regarding Abel's duties of keeping flocks, this was not for food. Remember that mankind were vegetarians until after the flood of Noah, when the Lord said,

Gen. 9:3 "Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as {I gave} the green plant."

Abel was keeping flocks because the animals had suffered the same fate as human beings did. Now that sin was in the world, there was no more free lunch. Someone needed to take care of the animals. Abel was the guy.

Offerings To The Lord

The book of Genesis says,

Gen. 4:3-4 So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. And Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions.

The translators have rendered this first phrase (kates yome), "in the course of time." But literally, it means "at the end of days." This means that there was some appointed time of the season or the year that the sons knew was for making offerings to the Lord for their sin.

No doubt that their parents Adam and Eve had educated them about this. I'm sure they had related the story many times, "Kids, after our eyes were opened, we knew that we were naked. So we sewed fig leaves together and made loin coverings for ourselves. But God made proper coverings for us instead - by killing an animal and putting its skin on us.

"By doing this, God had established that fact that the works of our hands could never cover our sins. He demonstrated that

Hebr. 9:22 ...without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

"Boys, make sure you never forget that. The only way your sin can be dealt with is through the offering of blood to God."

Adam and Eve had passed this down to their children. So when the end of days came, they knew it was time to offer God blood for their sins.

Abel's Sacrifice

Abel did just as his parents had instructed, offering from the animals of the flock. He imitated what God had done initially - presenting a covering for his sin from the bodies and blood of animals. By offering this sacrifice, he was acknowledging to God that he was a sinner that needed forgiveness.

Cain's Sacrifice

Cain, however, had another idea - why not just give God some of the fruit of the ground? Some of the things which he had grown with his own two hands? After all, he hadn't been that bad. Certainly, God would be okay with this sacrifice.

But God wasn't okay with that sacrifice. Cain knew the rules and he broke the rules. He offered up a sacrifice for his sins that was just like the fig leaves his parents had sewn. Not sacrifice, but sweat. Not worship, but work.

Why in the world would Cain have done this, when he knew what God's standards were? The verse before us tells us:

Hebr. 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous...

Cain's offering demonstrated two things: he had no faith, and he was unrighteous. The Bible confirms this elsewhere, saying...

1John 3:11-12 ...we should love one another; not as Cain, who was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother's were righteous.

Cain's deeds were evil, and he did not have love in his heart.

So we see that Cain had a problem with sin before the sacrifices were made. Sin hardened his heart into believing that if he just offered up the works of his hands, the fruit of his labor, that would be enough. But it wasn't enough. God wouldn't accept it. God had no regard for Cain's sacrifice.

People, we need to understand this - it is one of the first and most basic concepts in the Bible. People who think they are just fine are not fine. When you are convinced that you're a good person, it is clear evidence that sin has already twisted your perspective. When you tell yourself that God will let you into heaven because you've done some nice things for people, you are deceiving yourself. God has made it clear that it is only by the shedding of blood that sin can be paid for.

A Better Sacrifice

So Abel's sacrifice showed that he was righteous, whereas Cain's showed that he was unrighteous. Abel's was a better sacrifice, because it was in obedience to God's command - a command which has called for blood to pay for sin.

He Was Righteous

By this sacrifice offered in faith, Abel was looked at as righteous before God. Oh, Abel was still a sinner, but he put his faith in God and was obedient to approach God on God's terms. This is the only way anyone can be looked at as righteous in God's sight.

He Still Speaks

Abel has been dead now for about 6,000 years. But he is still speaking clearly by his example of faith. He is telling us that unless we have blood sacrificed for our sins, we will not be found righteous in God's eyes.

Fortunately, a sacrifice of blood has been made for us. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was sacrificed on the cross to pay for our sins. His blood was offered for us.

The Bible says,

Eph. 2:13 who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

1John 1:7 ...and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

The sacrifice of blood has been made for you. Now, to be found acceptable to God, all you need to do is have faith in that sacrifice, just like Abel did.

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