By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain. Hebrews 11:4
Notice the reason Abel was accepted and Cain was not—the difference lay in the sacrifice. “By faith, Abel offered…a more acceptable sacrifice.”
It is tempting to reason like this: Abel had faith, so when he offered his lamb, he was accepted by God. If Cain had offered his fruit and vegetables with faith, he too would have been accepted by God.
But Hebrews does not say that Abel had “a more acceptable faith.” It says that he offered “a more acceptable sacrifice.” And notice, Hebrews does not say that God commended him as righteous by accepting his faith. It says that God commended him “by accepting his gifts” (11:5).
The story here is not about a better brother. It is about a better sacrifice. It wasn’t Abel’s faith that made him right with God. It was his sacrifice. How did Abel know what to bring? It seems clear that God had revealed this.
Hebrews tells us that, “by faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain.” We have seen that faith believes what God has revealed and trusts what God has promised. It follows that if Abel brought his sacrifice by faith, God must have revealed the sacrifice He wanted.
Abel wasn’t guessing when he offered the lamb from the flock. He didn’t say “I wonder what would happen if I sacrificed a lamb and sprinkled its blood on the altar?” No, Hebrews tells us that Abel offered the sacrificed lamb by faith, and faith believes what God has revealed and trusts what God has promised.
One writer, John Brown, says, “Faith throughout the whole of the chapter is the belief of a divine revelation. It is plain then that a revelation had been made both to Cain and Abel respecting the duty of offering sacrifice, and the acceptable method of performing that duty.”
Can you name an acceptable sacrifice? An unacceptable sacrifice? How are they different?