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 (quickview) —“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.
God had spoken to Cain and Abel’s parents, Adam and Eve, BY ACTION.
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;
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.
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.
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].