By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous…
I. ABEL'S FAITH SPEAKS. "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (ver. 6). Homage to the all-wise Creator, gratitude to the all-bountiful Benefactor, submission to the all-powerful Ruler, sacrifice to the all-loving Father, are not enough. The first and indispensable element in all acceptable service is faith in the Redeemer, and implicit confidence in "Him who justifies the ungodly."
II. ABEL'S OFFERING TESTIFIES: "Without shedding of blood there is no remission" (Hebrews 9:22). It was an embodiment of the truths which were afterwards more fully developed in the sacrificial system of the Mosaic economy, and which are now revealed in the gospel in all their clearness, simplicity, and fulness. Not that Abel understood them in all the height and depth, length and breadth of their spiritual significance. Abel looked upon the bud: we behold the flower. Christ having come, and having offered up Himself as a sacrifice for human sin, "a lamb without spot and blemish," a light is reflected back upon all the sacrificial offerings of ancient days, which enables us to see that one grand truth was prefigured by them all, and that one solemn voice was uttered by them all. "'Without shedding," &c.
III. ABEL'S ACCEPTANCE HAS A VOICE: "To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted unto righteousness" (Romans 4:5). The important point is, that God gave him evidence of his acceptance in response to his faith. And what was this but another version of the great gospel doctrine that "a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law," yet not by a faith which is unaccompanied by works, but by a faith which reveals itself through works? Abel believed God's promise, and complied with God's prescription as to offering a bleeding sacrifice; and Abel's faith was counted unto him for righteousness: that is, God, in justifying Abel, had regard to faith.
IV. ABEL'S DEATH CRIES: "They who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12). The account of Abel's untimely end is simply given (Genesis 4:8). It was an early and a bitter fruit of sin, a ghastly revelation, and a woeful foretaste of the promised enmity between the serpent's seed and the woman's. A decisive indication that these two seeds were to be found in two different sections of the human family. That fratricide was the first blow in the world-wide and time-long conflict that had already been predicted. The culmination of the battle was when Christ despoiled the principalities and powers of evil by His cross. Yet the enmity is not ended. In consequence of Christ's death the victory of the seed of the woman is secure; but till the final triumph comes, they must suffer persecution. Just because they are the woman's seed and Christ's seed, the thing is inevitable.
V. ABEL'S GRAVE SHOUTS: "The Lord will avenge the blood of His servants" (Deuteronomy 32:43). God regards the saints as His peculiar possession, as the work of His hands. Christ esteems His people, not simply as His servants, disciples, followers, friends, but as members of His body, linked to His heart by the most tender ties of sympathy. Hence He watches over them with jealous care, protects them when in danger, feels for them and with them when they suffer, and avenges them when they are wronged. Sometimes in His wise but mysterious Providence He may suffer their liberties to be destroyed and their lives to be spilt; but "Vengeance is mine; I will repay!" saith the Lord. Witness Cain, Pharaoh, Ahab, Jezebel, Haman, Belshazzar, Herod, Nero, and others.
VI. ABEL'S MEMORY ECHOES: "The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance" (Psalm 112:6). For sixty centuries at least the name of Abel has been enshrined in affectionate remembrance, not for great deeds done, but for simple faith cherished, and for bitter suffering endured. Worth observing that being and suffering are sometimes as sure passports to renown as doing. Not the great actors on time's stage alone have their names transmitted to posterity, but the great sufferers as well. Not those alone who have lived brilliantly, but those also who have walked humbly. And this perhaps is right, for after all it may be questioned if to believe strongly, to live humbly, and to suffer patiently are not greater achievements than to act largely and to speak loudly.
(Thomas Whitelaw, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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 dead yet speaketh.
WEB: By faith, Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had testimony given to him that he was righteous, God testifying with respect to his gifts; and through it he, being dead, still speaks.