What is seen? Unseen? The invisible… what?
I have to admit: even after growing up in the church and having good teachers and books surround me my entire life, this whole faith thing still makes my brain feel foggy.
How to understand the mystery?
Well, let’s take a look at Abel and see what we can learn.
Hebrews 11 and 12 mention Abel just twice. For someone who is only mentioned briefly in Genesis, how did he of all people make the list of saints in Hebrews 11?
A review of Genesis 4 gives us only three brief mentions of Abel:
Verse 2: he is born
Verse 4: he gives an offering which God accepts or “had regard for”
Verse 8: his brother kills him.
Um, ok, that doesn’t seem like much to go on.
Honestly, there’s a whole lot more going on with brother Cain in that chapter. Yeah, he’s having a bit of a… rough time, shall we say?
So what is it about those three brief mentions in Genesis 4 that makes Abel end up in the “Hall of Faith?”
Is his offering somehow superior to Cain’s? Is that what this is about?
Well, fortunately for us, God gave us some commentary on Abel in Hebrews to explain what’s going on.
Hebrews 11:4 says, “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.”
So God accepted Abel’s offering because of his faith.
The context for Abel’s story comes right after Genesis 3, the infamous fall of man into sin, followed by God’s promise to send a Savior. It’s likely Abel grew up hearing about this from parents: sin, God’s answer, the promise of a Savior. God created faith in Abel’s heart through hearing God’s promises repeated from his parents. This faith had continued to grow as he became an adult and began to offer sacrifices. Through trust in God’s promises, Hebrews 11:4 says, “he was commended as righteous.”
So what is it about this faith that makes an offering acceptable? And how do we get it?
Often the emphasis here is on us. We have to somehow muster up enough faith, enough belief to make God happy… right?
Well, no. That’s not possible. So how do we explain this whole faith thing?
One of things that comes to my mind is Communion liturgy at its most basic level. Call and response, or simple Q&A.
Maybe these are a type of questions that Abel worked through before bringing his offering:
“Abel, do you believe God’s promise that he is sending a Savior in answer to your parents’ sin and yours?”
Yes, I believe.
“Abel, do you believe God is faithful to his promises?”
Yes, I believe.
“Come, for the table is ready.”
Abel believed. That’s faith.
God presents us with his promises. And presents us with Jesus as the answer to our sin, our need.
Do you believe?
A faith created in you by God’s mighty power: the Holy Spirit working through His Word.
Hebrews 11:3 tells us this Word of God also created the universe.
Pretty awesome, huh? God’s word is powerful enough to create this universe and create faith in us. When God creates faith in us, He covers us with the perfect righteousness of Jesus. I picture it like a robe.
You’re covered. God is pleased with you.
Another thing that is interesting to note is that both Abel’s faith and Abel’s testimony are God’s work.
Abel had no children, no way to continue his legacy. But God included Abel’s story in the Bible, thus
Abel’s faith “still speaks.”Not only did God begin the story, by creating Abel and his faith, but God finishes the story, by including Abel in Hebrews 11.
God creates our faith and preserves it.
We can rest in His work for us. Praise God!
Reading and Questions: