Summary: Because Abel believed, he offered a better sacrifice; because he offered a better sacrifice, he obtained righteousness; because he obtained righteousness, he is for all the ages a living voice saying, "Righteousness is by faith."
[The outline was borrowed from John MacArthur’s Hebrews commentary.]
Hebrews 11:4—“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it HE BEING DEATH YET SPEAKETH.”
James Moffatt wrote, “Death is never the last word in the life of a righteous man. When a man leaves this world, be he righteous or unrighteous, he leaves something in the world. He may leave something that will grow and spread like a cancer or a poison, or he may leave something like the fragrance of perfume or a blossom of beauty that permeates the atmosphere with blessing.”
Dead men do tell tales. They are not silent, but still speak to those who will listen. From many thousands of years ago, Abel speaks to twenty-first-century man. This man who lived when the earth was new, who was of the second generation of mankind, has something to teach modern, sophisticated, technological man. He lived in a far distant age, in a far different culture, with far less light from God than we have. But what he has to tell us is more relevant than anything we are likely to read in our current newspapers or magazines [The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Hebrews, p. 295].
Abel’s faith led to three things: TRUE SACRIFICE, TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESS, and TRUE WITNESS.
I. BECAUSE HE BELIEVED, HE OFFERED A BETTER SACRIFICE.
II. BECAUSE HE OFFERED A BETTER SACRIFICE, HE OBTAINED RIGHTEOUSNESS.
III. BECAUSE HE OBTAINED RIGHTEOUSNESS, HE IS FOR ALL THE AGES A LIVING VOICE SAYING, “RIGHTEOUSNESS IS BY FAITH.”
I. BECAUSE ABEL BELIEVED, HE OFFERED A BETTER SACRIFICE (v. 4a).
“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. . . .”
Why was Abel’s sacrifice more excellent than Cain’s? He offered it “BY FAITH.”
Faith must always have a revelation from God on which it is based.
Romans 10:17—“. . . faith cometh by hearing, and haring by the word of God.”
God had spoken to Cain and Abel’s parents, Adam and Eve, BY ACTION.
Genesis 3:6-10, 21
Four truths were displayed when God clothed Adam and Eve with coats of skins:
1. IN ORDER FOR A SINNER TO STAND BEFORE A HOLY GOD, HE NEEDED A COVERING;
2. THAT WHICH WAS OF HUMAN MANUFACTURE WAS WORTHLESS (Genesis 3:7);
3. GOD HIMSELF MUST PROVIDE THE NEEDED COVERING;
4. THE NECESSARY COVERING COULD ONLY BE OBTAINED BY THE SHEDDING OF BLOOD.
By killing the lamb and offering it to God, Abel acknowledged at least three things:
1. He acknowledged that HE WAS A GUILTY SINNER WHO DESERVED DEATH;
2. He acknowledged that GOD IS HOLY AND MUST PUNISH SIN;
3. He acknowledged that GOD IS MERCIFUL AND WILLING TO ACCEPT THE DEATH OF AN INNOCENT SUBSTITUTE.
Romans 6:23—“The wages of sin is death. . . .”
I must be paid those wages and suffer that death, or another—an innocent one, on whom death has no claim—must be paid those wages in my stead.
Hebrews 9:22—“. . . without shedding of blood is no remission.”
M. R. DeHaan—“The Bible is a book of blood . . . wholly distinct from all other books for just one reason, namely, that it contains blood circulating through every page and in every verse. From Genesis to Revelation we see the stream of blood” [Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations & Quotes, p. 76].
The thought of innocent animals being killed and their blood being shed is revolting. And that reveals to us the ugliness of sin.
THE SACRIFICIAL LAMB IS A PICTURE OF JESUS CHRIST.
Genesis 22:7-8—“And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, GOD WILL PROVIDE HIMSELF A LAMB FOR A BURNT OFFERING. . . .”
Isaiah 53:7—“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: HE IS BROUGHT AS A LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”
1 Peter 1:18-19—“. . . ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold. . . but WITH THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST, AS A LAMB WITHOUT BLEMISH AND WITHOUT SPOT.”
The first sacrifice in Scripture was Abel’s lamb—ONE LAMB FOR ONE PERSON.
Later came the Passover—with ONE LAMB FOR ONE FAMILY.
Exodus 12:3, 5-7, 13
1 Corinthians 5:7—“. . . Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.”
Then came the Day of Atonement—with ONE LAMB FOR ONE NATION.
Finally came Good Friday—ONE LAMB FOR THE WHOLE WORLD.
John 1:29—“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”